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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Media"

As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media

Westlake Legal Group 27china-social01-facebookJumbo As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media Wuhan (China) Wang Huning (1955- ) Social Media Polls and Public Opinion Politics and Government Media Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet China Censorship

SHANGHAI — Recently, someone following the coronavirus crisis through China’s official news media would see lots of footage, often set to stirring music, praising the heroism and sacrifice of health workers marching off to stricken places.

But someone following the crisis through social media would see something else entirely: vitriolic comments and mocking memes about government officials, harrowing descriptions of untreated family members and images of hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.

The contrast is almost never so stark in China. The government usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it. But the sheer amount of criticism — and the often clever ways in which critics dodge censors, such as by referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as “Trump” or by comparing the outbreak to the Chernobyl catastrophe — have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message.

In recent days, critics have pounced when officials in the city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, wore their protective masks incorrectly. They have heaped scorn upon stumbling pronouncements. When Wuhan’s mayor spoke to official media on Monday, one commenter responded, “If the virus is fair, then please don’t spare this useless person.”

The condemnations stand as a rare direct challenge to the Communist Party, which brooks no dissent in the way it runs China. In some cases, Chinese leaders appear to be acknowledging people’s fear, anger and other all-too-human reactions to the crisis, showing how the party can move dramatically, if sometimes belatedly, to mollify the public.

Such criticism can go only so far, however. Some of China’s more commercially minded media outlets have covered the disease and the response thoroughly if not critically. But articles and comments about the virus continue to be deleted, and the government and internet platforms have issued fresh warnings against spreading what they call “rumors.”

“Chinese social media are full of anger, not because there was no censorship on this topic, but despite strong censorship,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times, a website that monitors Chinese internet controls. “It is still possible that the censorship will suddenly increase again, as part of an effort to control the narrative.”

When China’s leaders battled the SARS virus in the early 2000s, social media was only just beginning to blossom in the country. The government covered up the disease’s spread, and it was left to journalists and other critics to shame the authorities into acknowledging the scale of the problem.

Today, smartphones and social media make it harder for mass public health crises to stay buried. But internet platforms in China are just as easily polluted with false and fast-moving information as they are everywhere else. During outbreaks of disease, Beijing’s leaders have legitimate reason to be on alert for quack remedies and scaremongering fabrications, which can cause panic and do damage.

In recent days, though, Beijing seems to be reasserting its primacy over information in ways that go beyond mere rumor control. At a meeting this past weekend between Mr. Xi and other senior leaders, one of the measures they resolved to take against the virus was to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”

Wang Huning, the head of the Communist Party’s publicity department and an influential party ideologue, was also recently named deputy head of the team in charge of containing the epidemic, behind only China’s premier, Li Keqiang.

Chinese officials seem to recognize that social media can be a useful tool for feeling out public opinion in times of crisis. WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging platform, over the weekend said that it would crack down hard on rumors about the virus. But it also created a tool for users to report tips and information about the disease and the response.

Internet backlash may already have caused one local government in China to change course on its virus-fighting policies. The southern city of Shantou announced on Sunday that it was stopping cars, ships and people from entering the city, in a policy that echoed ones in Wuhan. But then word went around that the decision had led people to panic-buy food, and by the afternoon, the order had been rescinded.

Nowhere has the local government been the target of more internet vitriol than in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital.

After the Hubei governor, Wang Xiaodong, and other officials there gave a news briefing on Sunday, web users mocked Mr. Wang for misstating, twice, the number of face masks that the province could produce. They circulated a photo from the briefing of him and two other officials, pointing out that one of them did not cover his nose with his mask, another wore his mask upside down and Mr. Wang did not wear a mask at all.

On Monday, social media users were similarly unrelenting toward Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang.

During an interview Mr. Zhou gave to state television, commenters in live streams unloaded on him, with one writing: “Stop talking. We just want to know when you will resign.”

Top authorities may be deliberately directing public anger toward officials in Hubei and Wuhan as a prelude to their resigning and being replaced. Many other targets within the Chinese leadership seem to remain off limits.

This month, as news of the coronavirus emerged but Mr. Xi did not make public appearances to address it, people on the social platform Weibo began venting their frustration in veiled ways, asking “Where’s that person?”

But even those comments were deleted. So some users started replacing Mr. Xi’s name with “Trump.” As in, “I don’t want to go through another minute of this year, my heart is filled with pain, I hope Trump dies.”

Other people hungering to express frustration have taken to the Chinese social platform Douban, which has been flooded recently by user reviews for “Chernobyl,” the hit television series about the Soviet nuclear disaster.

“In any era, any country, it’s the same. Cover everything up,” one reviewer wrote on Monday.

“That’s socialism,” wrote another.

Some Chinese news outlets have been able to report incisively on the coronavirus. The influential newsmagazine Caixin has put out rigorous reporting and analysis. The Paper, a digital news outlet that is overseen by Shanghai’s Communist Party Committee, published a chilling video about a Wuhan resident who couldn’t find a hospital that would treat him and ended up wandering the streets.

Mr. Xiao, the Chinese internet expert, said the central authorities long gave such outlets special leeway to cover certain topics in ways that official media cannot. But the outlets should not be viewed as independent of the government, he said, calling their coverage “planned and controlled publicity” from the authorities.

Even outside the digital realm, it is not hard to find people in China who remain unsure of whether to trust what their government is telling them about the epidemic.

Chen Pulin, a 78-year-old retiree, was waiting outside a Shanghai hospital recently while his daughter was inside being tested for the virus. When word of the disease first began trickling out, he immediately had doubts about whether officials were being forthcoming about it.

“Even now, the government seems to be thinking about the economy and social stability,” Mr. Chen said. “Those things are important, but when it comes to these infectious diseases, stopping the disease should come first.”

Li Yuan contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu, Lin Qiqing and Wang Yiwei contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media

Westlake Legal Group 27china-social01-facebookJumbo As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media Wuhan (China) Wang Huning (1955- ) Social Media Polls and Public Opinion Politics and Government Media Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet China Censorship

SHANGHAI — Recently, someone following the coronavirus crisis through China’s official news media would see lots of footage, often set to stirring music, praising the heroism and sacrifice of health workers marching off to stricken places.

But someone following the crisis through social media would see something else entirely: vitriolic comments and mocking memes about government officials, harrowing descriptions of untreated family members and images of hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.

The contrast is almost never so stark in China. The government usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it. But the sheer amount of criticism — and the often clever ways in which critics dodge censors, such as by referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as “Trump” or by comparing the outbreak to the Chernobyl catastrophe — have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message.

In recent days, critics have pounced when officials in the city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, wore their protective masks incorrectly. They have heaped scorn upon stumbling pronouncements. When Wuhan’s mayor spoke to official media on Monday, one commenter responded, “If the virus is fair, then please don’t spare this useless person.”

The condemnations stand as a rare direct challenge to the Communist Party, which brooks no dissent in the way it runs China. In some cases, Chinese leaders appear to be acknowledging people’s fear, anger and other all-too-human reactions to the crisis, showing how the party can move dramatically, if sometimes belatedly, to mollify the public.

Such criticism can go only so far, however. Some of China’s more commercially minded media outlets have covered the disease and the response thoroughly if not critically. But articles and comments about the virus continue to be deleted, and the government and internet platforms have issued fresh warnings against spreading what they call “rumors.”

“Chinese social media are full of anger, not because there was no censorship on this topic, but despite strong censorship,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times, a website that monitors Chinese internet controls. “It is still possible that the censorship will suddenly increase again, as part of an effort to control the narrative.”

When China’s leaders battled the SARS virus in the early 2000s, social media was only just beginning to blossom in the country. The government covered up the disease’s spread, and it was left to journalists and other critics to shame the authorities into acknowledging the scale of the problem.

Today, smartphones and social media make it harder for mass public health crises to stay buried. But internet platforms in China are just as easily polluted with false and fast-moving information as they are everywhere else. During outbreaks of disease, Beijing’s leaders have legitimate reason to be on alert for quack remedies and scaremongering fabrications, which can cause panic and do damage.

In recent days, though, Beijing seems to be reasserting its primacy over information in ways that go beyond mere rumor control. At a meeting this past weekend between Mr. Xi and other senior leaders, one of the measures they resolved to take against the virus was to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”

Wang Huning, the head of the Communist Party’s publicity department and an influential party ideologue, was also recently named deputy head of the team in charge of containing the epidemic, behind only China’s premier, Li Keqiang.

Chinese officials seem to recognize that social media can be a useful tool for feeling out public opinion in times of crisis. WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging platform, over the weekend said that it would crack down hard on rumors about the virus. But it also created a tool for users to report tips and information about the disease and the response.

Internet backlash may already have caused one local government in China to change course on its virus-fighting policies. The southern city of Shantou announced on Sunday that it was stopping cars, ships and people from entering the city, in a policy that echoed ones in Wuhan. But then word went around that the decision had led people to panic-buy food, and by the afternoon, the order had been rescinded.

Nowhere has the local government been the target of more internet vitriol than in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital.

After the Hubei governor, Wang Xiaodong, and other officials there gave a news briefing on Sunday, web users mocked Mr. Wang for misstating, twice, the number of face masks that the province could produce. They circulated a photo from the briefing of him and two other officials, pointing out that one of them did not cover his nose with his mask, another wore his mask upside down and Mr. Wang did not wear a mask at all.

On Monday, social media users were similarly unrelenting toward Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang.

During an interview Mr. Zhou gave to state television, commenters in live streams unloaded on him, with one writing: “Stop talking. We just want to know when you will resign.”

Top authorities may be deliberately directing public anger toward officials in Hubei and Wuhan as a prelude to their resigning and being replaced. Many other targets within the Chinese leadership seem to remain off limits.

This month, as news of the coronavirus emerged but Mr. Xi did not make public appearances to address it, people on the social platform Weibo began venting their frustration in veiled ways, asking “Where’s that person?”

But even those comments were deleted. So some users started replacing Mr. Xi’s name with “Trump.” As in, “I don’t want to go through another minute of this year, my heart is filled with pain, I hope Trump dies.”

Other people hungering to express frustration have taken to the Chinese social platform Douban, which has been flooded recently by user reviews for “Chernobyl,” the hit television series about the Soviet nuclear disaster.

“In any era, any country, it’s the same. Cover everything up,” one reviewer wrote on Monday.

“That’s socialism,” wrote another.

Some Chinese news outlets have been able to report incisively on the coronavirus. The influential newsmagazine Caixin has put out rigorous reporting and analysis. The Paper, a digital news outlet that is overseen by Shanghai’s Communist Party Committee, published a chilling video about a Wuhan resident who couldn’t find a hospital that would treat him and ended up wandering the streets.

Mr. Xiao, the Chinese internet expert, said the central authorities long gave such outlets special leeway to cover certain topics in ways that official media cannot. But the outlets should not be viewed as independent of the government, he said, calling their coverage “planned and controlled publicity” from the authorities.

Even outside the digital realm, it is not hard to find people in China who remain unsure of whether to trust what their government is telling them about the epidemic.

Chen Pulin, a 78-year-old retiree, was waiting outside a Shanghai hospital recently while his daughter was inside being tested for the virus. When word of the disease first began trickling out, he immediately had doubts about whether officials were being forthcoming about it.

“Even now, the government seems to be thinking about the economy and social stability,” Mr. Chen said. “Those things are important, but when it comes to these infectious diseases, stopping the disease should come first.”

Li Yuan contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu, Lin Qiqing and Wang Yiwei contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Site That Ran Anti-Semitic Remarks Got Passes for Trump Trip

Westlake Legal Group 26trunews-facebookJumbo Site That Ran Anti-Semitic Remarks Got Passes for Trump Trip World Economic Forum White House Correspondents Assn Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald J Jr Trump, Donald J News and News Media Media Jews and Judaism Freedom of the Press Deutch, Ted (1966- ) Davos (Switzerland)

To coordinate coverage of President Trump’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the White House provided press credentials to the usual mix of American news organizations, including Fox News, Reuters and The New York Times.

One media outlet stood out: TruNews, a website aimed at conservative Christians whose founder, a pastor named Rick Wiles, recently described Mr. Trump’s impeachment as “a Jew coup” planned by “a Jewish cabal.”

Five employees of TruNews, which is based in Florida, received formal credentials from the White House to cover the president’s trip, Mr. Wiles said in an interview last week from his hotel room in Switzerland — a room in a ski lodge reserved by the Trump administration for traveling members of the American press. (Like other media organizations, TruNews paid for its flights and lodging.)

White House officials, in this and previous administrations, tend to be flexible in choosing which news organizations receive press credentials: Reporting is a form of free speech and there are no legal restrictions on who can declare themselves a journalist.

But Mr. Wiles’s ability to secure credentials after his anti-Semitic remarks — which prompted a formal rebuke from two members of Congress — has left civil rights groups deeply troubled.

“It’s a validation of their work,” said Kyle Mantyla, a senior fellow at the progressive group People for the American Way, which has tracked Mr. Wiles’s work. TruNews, he said, “sees it as the White House being on their side.”

TruNews was not granted special access to the president in Davos, nor did its members travel on Air Force One. But one of Mr. Wiles’s colleagues, Edward Szall, asked a question of the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump during a news conference.

“We want to thank President Trump and the White House for extending the invitation to be here,” Mr. Wiles said in a video from Davos. “We are honored to be here, representing the kingdom of heaven and our king Jesus Christ.”

It was not the first time TruNews has gotten close to Mr. Trump and his family.

The president took a question from Mr. Szall at a 2018 news conference in Midtown Manhattan. In March 2019, a TruNews correspondent filmed an interview with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, after a rally in Michigan. (A spokeswoman for Donald Trump Jr. told The Washington Post that the interview was impromptu and that Mr. Trump was unfamiliar with the site.)

TruNews, which Mr. Wiles founded as an online radio program in 1999 called America’s Hope, has a history of spreading conspiracy theories and proclaiming an imminent apocalypse. It drew more scrutiny in November after Mr. Wiles, in an online video, accused Jews of orchestrating Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

“That’s the way Jews work,” Mr. Wiles said. “They are deceivers. They plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda. This ‘Impeach Trump’ movement is a Jew coup, and the American people better wake up to it really fast.”

Mr. Wiles also warned his listeners that “when Jews take over a country, they kill millions of Christians.”

Afterward, Representatives Ted Deutch of Florida and Elaine Luria of Virginia, wrote to the White House asking why TruNews had been allowed to attend presidential events. They did not receive a response.

The White House declined to comment for this article. In the past, the administration has faced lawsuits after revoking press credentials from reporters from CNN and Playboy.

On the phone from Switzerland, Mr. Wiles explained how his Davos trip had come about.

“We’re on a list of media organizations at the White House and from time to time they send out notices that there are events taking place,” Mr. Wiles said, adding that his team had also covered Mr. Trump’s visits to NATO summits and Group of 20 gatherings. He said that he received an email from the White House about the Davos trip and that his request to attend was approved.

The team from TruNews — three correspondents and a two-person production crew — stayed at a hotel where the White House had reserved a block of rooms for the use of American journalists. (As with a wedding block, those who used the rooms paid the hotel directly.) Reporters spotted Mr. Wiles at the breakfast buffet at the hotel, the Privà Alpine Lodge.

Asked in the interview if he understood why his “Jew coup” comments prompted charges of anti-Semitism, Mr. Wiles replied: “I coined a phrase. It came out of my mouth: ‘It looks like a Jew coup.’ All I pointed out was many of the people involved were Jewish.”

Pressed if such rhetoric could be reasonably interpreted as anti-Semitic, Mr. Wiles said: “It’s hard to say. I don’t know. I can tell you from my heart there is no ill will toward the Jewish people, with all sincerity.”

His critics disagree. Mr. Deutch, the representative from Florida, learned of TruNews’s presence in Davos while on a congressional trip to Jerusalem to commemorate the Holocaust.

“I can’t believe the day before I attend an event at Yad Vashem marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semites were given WH credentials to broadcast from European soil,” Mr. Deutch wrote on Twitter. (Yad Vashem is the Israeli Holocaust memorial.)

The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, has asked the Trump administration why TruNews was credentialed for the trip.

“It’s puzzling that a known hate group would get press credentials from the same White House that revoked the credentials of a correspondent for a major television network,” Mr. Karl said on Sunday, referring to Jim Acosta of CNN, whose credentials were revoked — and then restored after a lawsuit — in 2018.

“We have asked why this happened and if the White House intends to issue credentials to this group in the future,” Mr. Karl said. “We have not received an on-the-record response.”

Mr. Wiles, in the interview, said that he had been unfairly attacked by “the self-appointed gods and goddesses of the news media, who do not think we should be permitted to attend any event.” He went on to blame George Soros, the Jewish financier often cited in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, for coordinating a campaign against him.

“I don’t think anybody can find fault with our news coverage at these events,” Mr. Wiles said. “They may not agree with our analysis and conclusions. But our behavior at these events — we’re professional, we’re respectful.”

He added: “And we’re able to get interviews with prominent people.”

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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WATCH: “The establishment owns the media in this country”, McDonnell complains

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“Get out of London.” Now watch Johnson and Cummings turn the world upside down. Or try to.

“You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich Remainers’.” (Dominic Cummings, September 2019.)

– – –

Britain’s political and economic model from Margaret Thatcher through Tony Blair to David Cameron had roughly the following in common.

A dominant capital city, London, with its south-eastern hinterland.  A flourishing City of London.  An economy based on services rather than manufacturing.  A high level of immigration, at least recently, to service its needs – both internally and externally.  Pressure in this wider South East on schools, hospitals, roads, rail, cohesion, and especially the price of housing.

An Ascendancy class of civil servants, lawyers, journalists, academics, and media workers doing well out of this system, whichever of the main parties governed.  Government focus on message and spin to feed the London-based newspapers and media.  A recent Ministerial and Whitehall preoccupation with Parliament, reflecting the unwillingness of voters to elect a government with a strong majority since 2005 – and the increasing rebelliousness of backbenchers.  A currency that some believe to have been overvalued (further reinforcing this system).

Outside this greater South East, a provincial Britain in relative or sometimes absolute recession.  A growing gulf between its view of this system’s success and London’s.  A sense that it has done less well out of the growth of the capital city, the universities, the media, services, the law – and infrastructure spending.  A less favourable view of immigration.  Less expensive housing but also lower wages.  Skills and employment gaps.

– – –

All this is about to change – at least, if a new post-Brexit Conservative Government based broadly on Thursday’s results, serving at least two terms and with Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings in place, has its way.

Perhaps wrongly, I read the briefing in much of Sunday’s papers about the new Government’s intentions as Classic Dom.  In the short to medium term, expect to see the following:

  • Less of a focus on Parliament and the media.  Johnson has a majority of the best part of a hundred.  He won the election despite, even arguably because of, intense media scrutiny, opposition and pressure.  I suspect that the Prime Minister won’t care much what Labour, which is likely to vanish into chaotic opposition for the best part of a year, or the Liberal Democrats, who have just lost their leader, do or say in the Commons, at least for the moment. Furthermore, Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke, Amber Rudd, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve* and his most persistent critics are no longer there.  And Cummings won’t be remotely flustered by what’s said on a Today programme or a Newsnight or by an Andrew Neil that, in his view, only the Westminster Village bubble is bothered about.
  • A Government restructuring to concentrate on delivery.  Johnson and Cummings thus won’t worry too much if Ministers flounder in the Commons or TV studios – at least in the early part of this Parliament.  They will want delivery, delivery, delivery for the new blue seats in the Midlands and North.  That will mean tearing up the Government reshaping undertaken by Nick Timothy for Theresa May and starting all over again.  Briefing that Business and Trade will be amalgamated; that the Environment and Climate Change, a Johnson and Carrie Symonds preoccupation, will again have its own department, and that the Foreign Office will absorb much of DfId sounds about right.  A post-January post-Brexit reshuffle will reveal all.
  • Ministers appointed to govern rather than perform.  Monday’s reshuffle will see gaps filled at Culture – which will have an important role with regard to digital and the media – and Wales.  I expect the bigger January shuffle to see Cabinet Ministers appointed who Number Ten expects to work with outsiders to transform Whitehall.  There will be a big emphasis on NHS spending, police numbers, border control, northern infrastructure, skills and, maybe especially, Cummings’ spoor: the words “Invest in Science”.The sort of names to look out for include Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden, Robert Jenrick, Jesse Norman, maybe Chris Skidmore and the rehabilitated Michael Gove.
  • Expect the unexpected.  All those are men.  Johnson will want to appoint a lot of women – an intention made all the more intriguing by the fact that many of the Ministers currently being tipped for the sack are female.  The most senior women outside Cabinet itself are Esther McVey, Caroline Dinenage and Lucy Frazer, who could easily slot into one of the Law Officer posts.  But there is no way of knowing what Johnson, Cummings, Downing Street and the Whips will come up with. And other names in the mix include Victoria Atkins, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and a revitalised Penny Mordaunt.  Cummings’ instinct will be to bring in good outsiders as Ministers and promote quickly from the massive new intake of Tory MPs if necessary – over the head of convention and perhaps advice.

There are some oddities about bits of the briefing, or at least parts of what’s being written.  For example, if a new department for Borders and Security is to be set up, what becomes of the Home Office – which under the Theresa May/Timothy reforms became a department for security and borders?  Is it to be amalgamated once again with the Justice Department?  Might Johnson want to mull reviving an updated Lord Chancellor’s department?

And if the SNP is to campaign for a second independence referendum, with Northern Ireland undergoing huge post-Brexit change, wouldn’t it make sense to have a Secretary of State and department for the Union – perhaps headed by the ubiquitious Gove?  What becomed of the traditional power of the Treasury?

Finally, Johnson could do all the restructuring and appointing available to him with his near three-figure majority…and find that the economic and political model he inherited is too entrenched to be shifted.  Because the commanding heights of our culture have so big a stake in it that they won’t willingly let it go.  Buy your ringside seat now for the clash between the Ascendancy’s instincts and Cummings’ Nietzschean plans. With Johnson refereeing.

– – –

* Mr Grieve…we’ll see what he is right about.” (Cummings, August 2019.)

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Winners and losers of the General Election

Winners:

  • Tom Harwood
  • Andrew Gimson
  • Welsh Conservatives
  • Brussels
  • CCHQ advisors from down under – especially Isaac Levido
  • Chief Rabbi
  • British Jewry
  • Darren Grimes
  • The Few (The Many)
  • Leo Varadkar
  • Chris Montgomery
  • SNP
  • Jo Swinson
  • The Pound
  • Donald Trump
  • Free schools
  • Ian Austin
  • Sir John Curtice
  • Opinion Pollsters
  • Create Streets
  • Newspapers
  • Lord Sugar
  • Wetherspoons
  • Annunziata Rees-Mogg

Losers:

  • Novara Media
  • Ex-Tory Remainers
  • Liberal Democrats
  • Corbynites
  • Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party
  • Steve Coogan
  • Hugh Grant
  • The Independent Group
  • Andrew Neil
  • Paul Mason
  • Scottish Conservatives
  • DUP
  • Peter Oborne
  • Unite to Remain
  • John Bercow
  • David Allen Green
  • John Major
  • Chris Patten
  • Tony Blair
  • Owen Jones
  • Green Party
  • Plaid Cymru
  • Twitter
  • The Blob
  • Channel 4
  • Modern architects
  • Stormzy
  • Alastair Campbell
  • Supreme Court

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Young Sheldon, Meet SpongeBob: CBS and Viacom Are Back Together

Westlake Legal Group 04viacomcbs01-facebookJumbo Young Sheldon, Meet SpongeBob: CBS and Viacom Are Back Together Video Recordings, Downloads and Streaming Viacom Inc Television Stocks and Bonds Simon&Schuster Inc Redstone, Sumner M Redstone, Shari PlutoTV Paramount Pictures Nickelodeon News and News Media MTV Networks Movies Moonves, Leslie Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Media Digital and High-Definition Television CBS Corporation Cable Television Books and Literature Bakish, Robert M Advertising and Marketing

After more than a decade apart, CBS and Viacom are reuniting.

In a deal that closed on Wednesday, the CBS Corporation, the company behind the broadcast network CBS and the publisher Simon & Schuster, merged with Viacom, the owner of Paramount Pictures and the cable outlets MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The combination brings together a set of businesses that once dominated the media and entertainment industries but are now fighting to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world.

CBS and Viacom were already corporate siblings before the deal, both controlled by National Amusements, a theater company that grew into a major conglomerate under the mogul Sumner M. Redstone, who is ailing at age 96. His daughter, Shari Redstone, emerged as the company’s leader in recent years and had sought a merger since 2016. With the deal, Ms. Redstone cements her role as a trailblazing figure in a male-dominated industry, a woman whose peers now include leaders of media behemoths like Brian Roberts of Comcast and Robert A. Iger of the Walt Disney Company.

Now that Disney has joined Netflix and Amazon as a force in the streaming industry, the merger is meant to make ViacomCBS, as the new company will be called, a bigger player in digital entertainment than the two companies had been as separate entities.

Unlike its streaming rivals — a group that includes Apple, with its new Apple TV Plus streaming service, and AT&T, the owner of HBO Max, scheduled to make its debut in May — ViacomCBS will focus on supplying films and television series to other companies. With an executive team led by Ms. Redstone, the chairwoman of the company’s board, ViacomCBS intends to follow a strategy of selling its wares to the highest bidder as demand for original content increases.

The number of streaming subscribers around the world surpassed the number of cable subscribers for the first time last year, and Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other platforms are fighting to attract customers who have cut the cord or are one cable technician visit away from doing so.

That has set off a frenzy of activity among the streaming companies, and ViacomCBS has already started to take advantage of the new demand. Paramount’s TV arm, for example, created “Jack Ryan,” a popular series on Amazon Prime Video, and CBS has produced content, like the true-crime drama “Unbelievable” and the comedic thriller “Dead to Me,” that streams exclusively on Netflix. In October, Viacom sold streaming rights to the animated comedy series “South Park” to AT&T’s HBO Max in a deal worth $500 million.

“I actually feel great about this positioning,” Ms. Redstone said at a November event at the Paley Center in Manhattan. She described the combination as a “global content powerhouse” that has an “incredible library.”

Viacom properties include “Mission: Impossible,” “Star Trek” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and CBS is home to “NCIS,” “60 Minutes” and “Young Sheldon,” a breakout comedy that is owned by AT&T’s Warner Bros. but has become a durable hit for CBS.

ViacomCBS also has a small toehold in streaming services with CBS All Access and Showtime, which together have more than eight million subscribers and feature originals such as the reboot of “Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek: Picard,” which is scheduled to have a January debut. Viacom’s free, ad-supported streaming service, Pluto, has more than 20 million viewers a month.

From 2000, when National Amusements acquired CBS, until 2006, the two companies were a single entity. Mr. Redstone split them apart when the Viacom properties were growing faster than the CBS broadcast network and radio stations. A reunification was seen as necessary now that television audiences have eroded and the movie business is adjusting to streaming.

The creation of ViacomCBS is a victory for Ms. Redstone, whose efforts to bring about a merger drew opposition from the CBS Corporation board, including its former chief executive Leslie Moonves. Mr. Moonves was pushed out last year after several women accused him of sexual misconduct, charges he has denied.

Some analysts have questioned the deal, saying it may not be enough to fend off the decline in traditional television. Michael Nathanson, an analyst with the Wall Street research firm MoffettNathanson, said ViacomCBS would have to “explain how the combination helps better insulate it” from the current pressures on the cable and satellite business.

The merger seems to be largely a “defense play,” he said. “For the stock to work, they have to prove that their current strategy is either building long-term asset value or generating more attractive” returns, he said. “If they can’t, we remain in purgatory.”

Shares of both CBS and Viacom have dropped about 20 percent since the merger was announced in August.

Viacom’s chief executive, Robert M. Bakish, leads the new company, and Joseph Ianniello, the CBS acting chief executive, remains the head of the CBS unit. The combined company expects to see about $500 million in cost savings, which typically come in the form of layoffs. The deal’s closing is sure to set off several rounds of job cuts over the next few years.

David Nevins, the head of Showtime, has been put in charge of overseeing collaborative efforts between programmers across both CBS and Viacom, reporting to both Mr. Bakish and Mr. Ianniello. Mr. Nevins is directly in charge of programming for CBS, Showtime and BET. He has also developed a close working relationship with Ms. Redstone. This is the first season in decades that CBS programming has come from someone other than Mr. Moonves, who was often credited with the network’s ratings dominance over the past decade.

For this season so far, CBS has lost the crown to NBC, with ratings falling more than 12 percent from last year. The 2019-20 television season could ultimately shake out differently. On a conference call with analysts last month, Mr. Ianniello predicted that CBS would finish the season in May “as America’s most-watched network.”

The deal is the last in the current wave of media megamergers. Two major transactions totaling more than $150 billion closed just last year. AT&T buttoned up its $80 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Shortly thereafter, the Walt Disney Company beat out its rival Comcast to win the majority of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox business for $71.3 billion.

But the combination of CBS and Viacom amounts to a fraction of those deals, underscoring the need for such a merger. The equity value of the new business is about $25 billion, putting it far behind rivals like Disney, which also has a theme parks business, and NBCUniversal, which is owned by the cable giant Comcast.

Several key advisers to Ms. Redstone have suggested a bigger deal could come in the future, with ViacomCBS selling to a tech giant, four people familiar with those discussions have said. Even so, Ms. Redstone is not in a rush to sell off a business she has just spent years pulling together, they added.

When asked if ViacomCBS was large enough to compete against its supersize competitors, Ms. Redstone said it would be a mistake to confuse a company’s value with its heft.

“I think people make a mistake and they look at scale as being about market cap,” she said at the Paley Center. “Scale is not about market cap. Scale is about the ability to create the quantity and quality of content that people want to see.”

She went on to make an impassioned defense of the company’s track record: “We have 4.3 billion subscribers around the world. We have 22, almost 23 percent of TV and cable viewership. We’re No. 1 in all key demos in the United States.”

The person conducting the interview at the Paley Center was one of her principal bankers, Aryeh Bourkoff, the head of LionTree Advisors, who helped broker the merger. After her response in defense of the company, he said, “I didn’t mean to offend you by the question,” eliciting laughter in the room.

The deal is an important moment for Ms. Redstone, who has long waited in the shadow of her father, a combative, cantankerous entrepreneur who over decades forged an empire through a series of mergers bankrolled by big loans. He built it only to dangle succession in front of his daughter, creating a caustic relationship that led to one of the most bitter family disputes in corporate America.

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Figuring Out President Trump

Since he dipped his toe into the treacherous political waters in 2015, much has been written about President Trump’s modus operandi. As a neophyte politician, is he a charlatan, a fool, or one cagey SOB? Most points of view are generally dependent on the politics of the given prognosticator. Leftist Democrats believe that he has normalized bigotry and xenophobia in this country and has likely paved the way for race relations to deteriorate rather than progressing forward. Some of them believe that he is either a clueless incompetent beyond his depth or an evil genius.

Yet Trump’s opponents – in particular those in the legacy media – continue to hang on every his every word and are constantly being trolled by his public statements and especially his daily tweets on Twitter. It is really quite amazing to watch, is it not? Given that the likes of CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, and Washington Post have destroyed their credibility with the American people due to fake news reporting, the only thing keeping them afloat in terms of viewership/readership is their 24×7 reporting on everything Trump!

All of Trump’s naysayers are from the political establishment along with their hangers-on in media, academia and Hollywood. They largely live in Blue states and never come into contact with Trump supporters in Red states; they inhabit the equivalent of a Leftist Cocoon into which reality and facts never seem to penetrate. Emotions motivate them, and they inherently value style over substance. How many times have we seen Democrats or media figures complain about the president’s supposed “unpresidential behavior” over the past couple of years? They are all so absolutely CERTAIN that there is only one correct way in which a sitting president must comport himself, and President Trump does not meet their expectations. That’s why they love their tin god Obama who was and is nothing but style and a light-weight with nothing of substance behind him. Fortunately, his legacy is blowing away like dust in the wind.

How best to explain President Trump, especially to those afflicted with seemingly incurable mass psychosis that is called Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)? Opinions vary, even among those of us on the Right. What follows are my personal opinions. First of all, unlike the views of those afflicted with TDS, my opinion is that our president is far smarter than his political adversaries! What do I mean? Allow me to explain with a personal anecdote.

I once had a French-speaking boss who was born in Quebec, Canada. A Vietnam vet, he sustained a gunshot wound behind an ear that affected his hearing. A PhD, he cultivated a belief based on his personal circumstances about which everyone in his immediate circle knew. He feigned difficulty in understanding English and coupled that pretension with impaired hearing, which he worked to his advantage in meetings. His “condition” was so well-known and cleverly developed that his reputation for these maladies preceded him. But here’s the deal: he could hear perfectly and could communicate verbally and in writing in English with the best of English speakers. His act resulted in people letting their guard down around him and disclosing things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Trump has his own shtick in this regard – not hard of hearing or feigning language difficulty – but rather a brusque and direct nature that greatly differs from the demeanor of a US president expected by the political class. In short, he is frequently viewed to be “not very presidential” by the Left and downright “dumb,” and the Democrats, legacy media, and NeverTrump Republicans can’t deal with that except to continually disparage him. It is impossible for them to ignore his direct public statements and tweets, and they react reflexively (and predictably) each and every time. They just can’t help themselves because they despise him so much – and this makes them completely susceptible to Trump’s misdirection.

President Trump has long been a disciple of Sun Tzu, the great Chinese general and philosopher who authored the seminal reference, “The Art of War.” President Trump wrote his own book, “The Art of Business,” patterned after Sun Tzu’s military strategies. I believe that he is also applying those same strategies to the modern political realm as he deals with his political opponents on a daily basis.

Let’s look at how Trump applies 10 of Sun Tzu’s principles in light of what we’ve learned about our president through close observation since 2015.

Principle #1 – Planning: Trump views his struggle as a war with the entrenched Deep State and their allies. He spent years studying the enemy camp and learning their weaknesses before developing his plan for the presidency. What are the elements of his plan? To use other Sun Tzu principles to let his enemies defeat themselves, including use of advantages, alliances, deception, use of spies, exploitation of strengths and weaknesses, energy, communication, and winning whole.

Principle #2 – Character: Sun is big on the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness in commanders. There is plenty of evidence of those in Trump! I like his benevolent side in particular, as well as his courage in his willingness to take it to the the Democrats and the media. A commander uses those virtues to properly command those around him. Trump is excellent in delegating authority to his sub-commanders (cabinet officers and various functionaries and spokesmen).

Principle #3 – Using advantages: Sun says that to become “thoroughly acquainted” with anything, and thus able to use the advantage of that knowledge, takes time, especially to get thoroughly acquainted with oneself. Without question, our president is comfortable in his own skin, as is readily seen in all of his public appearances, especially his campaign rallies around the country. He is a man of the people, and the people love him for it. And he’s spent decades studying “the enemy” and their weaknesses (e.g., hubris, false omniscience, narcissism, greed, envy, and personal foibles and sins). It’s a key advantage he has over the Democrats and media who underestimate him at every turn.

Principle #4 – Alliances: Sun says that no one has ever achieved anything of note without having alliances, and that knowing how to win is the first step while building alliances to get it done is the second step. With whom does Trump have strong alliances? I would argue that Trump has allied himself with a number of flag and general officers in the active duty and retired military who are intent on purging the corruption that is rampant in the Deep State, as well as his cabinet members, the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, and others. All are working to Make America Great Again!

Principle #5 – Deception: Sun says that “all warfare is based on deception.” A corollary is the use of misdirection to deceive and confuse the enemy. And we all know that Trump is a master at using misdirection to keep Democrats and the legacy media off-balance! His opposition hasn’t stopped him from setting a record for appointments to the federal judiciary, or the passage of tax cuts, or the freeing up of the oil and gas industry, or the ending of the Obamacare individual mandate, or getting NATO allies to pay more, or working to reset trade practices with China, etc. That’s because the opposition is fixated on Trump’s misdirecting public statements and tweets – on his style versus his substance (policies and directives). I would argue that the real key to understanding Trump’s ongoing political strategy and modus operandi is his use of this most important Sun principle – Deception!

Principle #6 – Use of spies: Sun says that “to fight and win all battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellent consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Employing spycraft to understand the enemy’s plans and motivations is key to winning. A couple of names come to mind: ADM Rogers (the former head of NSA, the world’s elite communications monitoring org who made that important trip to Trump Tower in mid-November 2016). Two others: Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel (reorganizing and repurposing the CIA, with Pompeo now leading Trump’s foreign policy team as Secretary of State). It would appear that leakers are also being outed as time goes by in the Senate, House, National Security Council, and State Department. That’s spycraft!

Principle #7 – Strengths and weaknesses: Sun said that good fighters “first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat” and then wait for an opportunity to defeat the enemy – by waiting for that opportunity as provided by the enemy himself. President Trump plays rope-a-dope with the best of them. He gives off an air of weakness by not actively using the strength of his office to, for example, overtly direct Deep State firings, prosecutions, etc., of the cabal. He is patient in letting his enemies hang themselves. Which is exactly what the likes of Clapper, Comey, Brennan, McCabe, Strozk, Yates, and others are doing almost daily with their public railings about Trump’s supposed “treason,” abuse of power, Ukrainia quid pro quo, etc. Meanwhile, the indisputable evidence of their own perfidy continues to be exposed. He is letting them defeat themselves in the court of public opinion in preparation for the prosecutions to come – while building majority support among normal Americans for the indictments to come.

Principle #8 – Energy: Sun says that if you don’t know what to defend or what to attack, you will squander your energy. Our president has boundless energy and is constantly working on his MAGA agenda on but 4-5 hours of sleep per night. Amazing! He is putting his energy into advancing his agenda and using surrogates to hold his political opposition and the media at bay. Watch for more campaign rallies like Minneapolis and Dallas to energize his base (including Democrats!) going into 2020, too.

Principle #9 – Communications: Sun says that appropriate communication is the golden key to winning. Who could possibly argue that Trump is the greatest communicator in the Oval Office since Reagan (and I would argue even better!)? His twitter campaign is brilliant, as he is able to communicate instantaneously with his base whenever he chooses to do so. The Democrats and legacy media still haven’t figured it out yet; they always respond to everything he says. I pray they never will!

Principle #10 – Winning whole: Sun says that “the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus, do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat.” Now we can’t possibly know all of the calculations that Trump has made along the way, or the plans that are presently being executed on multiple fronts, but we can judge the results by his many successes since 20 January 2017. How many substantive losses has he truly sustained? The Obamacare repeal failed, but that was on the Senate (McCain in particular), not Trump. And I don’t believe he’s given up on that, so call that one a rain-check for now. Same with the Wall – which has been obstructed by the Uniparty, too. He used a declaration of national emergency on the border to fund the Wall out of national security spending in order to defeat the Democrats’ obstruction. It is being built, slowly but surely. And the economy is going gang-busters. Looks to me like President Trump owns that last Sun Tzu principle in spades: winning whole!

Conclusion: President Trump’s modus operandi involves adaptation of Sun Tzu’s 10 principles to the political battlespace of 21st century America. He is probably the greatest adherent to the tenets in Sun’s “The Art of War” in the modern era, and insights into his thinking can be elucidated by carefully observing his very successful actions on our collective behalf on a daily basis. The latest example was his appearance at the Astros-Nationals World Series Game last night. When he was shown on the big screen, the Deep State bureaucrats in attendance (DC is loaded with them!) booed him. Imagine what the rest of the normal country thought when the watched that unpatriotic spectacle? The Master Troller was at work again exposing that DC isn’t American at all – quite the opposite! The Left/Democrats, legacy media, and indeed virtually the entire political class remain clueless – which is great for the rest of us!

The end.

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Watch: NSA Adviser Shuts Down Chuck Todd on Why Russia Was Notified in Advance of ISIS Raid

Westlake Legal Group trump-fist-620x317 Watch: NSA Adviser Shuts Down Chuck Todd on Why Russia Was Notified in Advance of ISIS Raid white house washington D.C. Syria Social Media Russia robert o'brien republicans Politics North Carolina NBC News National Security Middle East Media journalism Front Page Stories Front Page Foreign Policy Featured Story Featured Post donald trump democrats Culture Congress Chuck Todd Allow Media Exception

President Donald Trump gestures towards members on the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, after returning from United Nations General Assembly. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

You’d think everyone would have been elated at the news, but the national media and Democrats including Obama loyalists and former Obama officials were some of the saddest, angriest people in the aftermath of the news of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend.

After the news broke, the mainstream media wasted no time in latching on to a Democratic talking point about how Trump had informed Russia about the raid in advance but not Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

NBC News’ Chuck Todd was just one of many journos who saw something sinister behind Trump’s decision to notify Russia in advance of the raid and “thank Russia first” afterwards, and he let National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien know it on Sunday’s “Meet the Press”:

CHUCK TODD: The president said that there were a number of folks that helped. He thanked Russia first. He thanked the Kurds last. Should we read into that?

ROBERT O’BRIEN: No I don’t think you should read into that. I think what the president talked about is that it was a very dangerous mission for our troops. And the president made a courageous decision to send them far into enemy territory at night, a long range helicopter raid. It was a courageous decision of the president. But it was incredible bravery and skill of our men and women in the armed forces and the intelligence community that executed the mission flawlessly. But they had to fly over areas where there was significant anti-aircraft capability, the Syrians, the Russians, the Turks, others. So I think we appreciated the fact that our helicopters and our planes weren’t molested. The Kurds played an important role in the operation. And we’re grateful for the Kurds and for the SDF and our allies there.

When Todd again pressed O’Brien on the Russia angle, the NSA adviser patiently explained again why Russia played a crucial role and deserved thanks, even though they were not an ally of the United States:

CHUCK TODD: On a policy front, Russia. Are they an ally of the United States in this fight in ISIS? And are they an adversary of the United States in this situation with Ukraine? How would you describe it?

ROBERT O’BRIEN: Well, let me just make it very clear, Russia is not an ally of the United States. The president doesn’t believe that. I don’t believe that. I think there’s anyone —

CHUCK TODD: First country he thanked today.

ROBERT O’BRIEN: Look, there are times when our interests overlaps with the interests of Russia. Last night it overlapped. We didn’t want Russian air defense missiles being shot at our men and women who were executing this raid. And, and so last night — and they don’t like ISIS, as the president pointed out. Last night, our interests overlapped with Russia. When our interests overlap with Russia, there’s no reason we shouldn’t work with them. Russia is not an ally of the United States and look Russia presents a great danger to the United States. And something we keep an eye on every single day.

Watch O’Brien calmly teach Foreign Policy 101 to Todd below:

And to be perfectly clear, per Trump Russia was not notified of the specific mission:

“We spoke to the Russians. We told them we are coming in. They said, ‘Thank you for telling us,’” he said. “We told them we thought they would be happy. They hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. They did not know the mission but they knew we were going over an area where they had a lot of firepower.”

In spite of the LSM and Democratic concern trolling about what Russia knew vs. what Pelosi and Schumer knew, it was just a great weekend all around for the dedicated men and women of the U.S. military. Job well done, y’all.

——-
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 16+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –

The post Watch: NSA Adviser Shuts Down Chuck Todd on Why Russia Was Notified in Advance of ISIS Raid appeared first on RedState.

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