A Cancer on the Local News: The Insidious Nature of the Sinclair Broadcast Group

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You may have noticed how some of my blog posts on the media usually consist of me attacking conservative media outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, and Info Wars. However, understand that I didn’t attack these outlets solely for spouting conservative views alone. Rather, I’ve attacked them due to their stunning lack of journalistic ethics, propensity to spread misinformation, derogatory stereotypes, peddling conspiracy theories, and blatant disregard for the truth when it suits them. Not to mention, the fact these outlets have been so prolific and influential in the media landscape. However, I have to concede that these three media outlets have audiences who know what they’re getting.

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This is a map from the New York Times depicting Sinclair’s reach. The green dots represent the markets where the company has a station. The orange ones represent where Tribune owns one. If Sinclair gets its way, 233 local stations can be under its wing.

This isn’t the case with audience who watch the local news on a station owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Called “the most dangerous company most Americans haven’t heard of,” Sinclair is possibly the largest TV station operator in the United States. Owning and/or operating a total of 173 stations across the country covering over 100 markets, this conglomerate reaches 40% of all American households, many of which are located in the South and Midwest along with small and medium sized cities. Thus, it had already hit the 39% cap imposed by the Federal Communications Commission which should’ve effectively barred the company from further acquisitions. But today, the Sinclair Broadcast Group is set to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The deal is expected to receive FCC approval sometime soon. If Sinclair gets its way, its media empire could cover nearly 72% of the US and an average viewership of 2.2 million households. Some of these Tribune stations are already in markets where a Sinclair one exists. At any rate, it could result in Sinclair creating a media oligarchy in the broadcast television industry with 233 stations under its wing. After all, Sinclair has expanded drastically over the last 2½ decades since it went from owning 3 stations in the early 1990s to 59 in less than a decade. By 2014, its local station ownership had tripled to 162. Still, it’s widely expected that Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune Media will be approved thanks to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reinstating the archaic “UHF discount” which allows broadcasters to understate their overall reach. In the meantime, the company has faced criticism over circumventing concentration in media ownership rules, particularly in using local marketing agreements and similar arrangements to take over stations on behalf of preferred third parties. It’s no surprise that so many progressive groups have expressed opposition to the sale. But so have conservative media outlets like Newsmax, The Blaze, and One America News Network perhaps fearing the competition. Though their motives may not be pure, they have a point when they speak about diversity and independence. After all, a larger Sinclair operation would chip into the market for right wing news as well as further diminish media access already dominated by a handful of players thanks to years of media consolidation.

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Sinclair is notorious for trying to inject right wing propaganda into their local news broadcasts. One must-run segment is “Terror Alert Desk” which is mostly devoted to demonizing Muslims than discussing terrorism. Don’t expect any commentary on Charlottesville or white supremacist violence on this segment any time soon.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has also faced significant scrutiny over promoting its conservative agenda within a news format that’s supposed to be apolitical: local news programming. The company’s stations have been known for featuring news content and programming that promote conservative political positions and have been involved in various controversies surrounding politically motivated programming decisions. From the early 2000s, Sinclair has infected local news coverage with politically-charged programming and turning local news stations into partisan outlets. The company is also known for pushing heavy partisan commentary in the lead-up to elections, often favoring Republican candidates. And it has received plenty of criticism for critical content of Democratic candidates during each presidential election since 2004. Most recently, Sinclair made headlines for striking a deal with Jared Kushner to give positive press to the Trump campaign while heavily criticizing Hillary Clinton. Now promoting their political agenda wouldn’t be much of a problem if Sinclair confined their bias on DC-produced segments, commentary shows, or attack ads. However, what Sinclair does on local news is far more insidious. And since more Americans place high value on their local news, it has become a perfect tool for the company to inject their right-wing propaganda.

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Sinclair regularly produces conservative propaganda pieces before distributing them to their stations like this Mark Hyman’s “Behind the Headlines” commentary bit. Called “must-runs,” local stations are required to air them in their broadcasts. While they may not always feature commentary, they’re nevertheless inflammatory, misleading, and certainly inappropriate for a local newscast.

One practice that stands for are Sinclair’s infamous “must-run” segments. These segments are short pieces of political commentary Sinclair produces at their national headquarters that affiliates are required to air. Every day, Sinclair mandates its stations to air specific reports, segments, and editorials referred to as “must runs.” Sinclair produces these at its Washington DC headquarters and directs its station managers to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 to 48 hours. And they mainly consist of conservative propaganda presented as news content. In July 2017, the HBO show Last Week Tonight had John Oliver present clips of various anchors using the exact same script describing the FBI as having a “personal vendetta” against Michael Flynn, clips of Mark Hyman editorials in which he compared multiculturalism and political correctness to a cancer epidemic and stated that marriage was a solution to domestic abuse, and joked that the “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments defined terrorism as “anything a Muslim does.” The show also aired content by former Trump adviser Boris Epstheyn alleging Obama won North Carolina due to voter fraud and a clip blaming the Democratic Party for slavery, Jim Crow, and the Klu Klux Klan. Back in the Bush administration, Sinclair required all its stations to air an editorial segment called “The Point,” which Hyman railed against the “angry left,” and “clueless academia,” dismissed peace activists as “whack jobs,” called the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” and supported a host of right wing initiatives from a national sales tax to Medicare privatization. You might expect such commentary from Breitbart or Fox News that are often inflammatory and misrepresent the facts, not your local station. But this is exactly the kind of content Sinclair tells its stations to run on their local newscasts to promote its right-wing agenda. TV journalists have complained about being forced to run these overly partisan segments because as Oliver noted, “with Sinclair they’re injecting Fox-worthy content into the mouths of your local news anchors, the two people who you know, and who you trust, and whose on-screen chemistry can usually best be described as two people.” In one notable incident following the 9/11 attacks, Sinclair ordered its stations to read editorials praising President George W. Bush’s response. The WBFF staff objected, claiming the endorsement would “undermine public faith in their political objectivity.” It’s very clear Sinclair’s must run segments are a concerted effort to turn your local 6 o’clock broadcast into a little Fox News clone without disclosing it to the public. But when they put these segments into local newscasts, they degrade journalistic standards, abuse viewers’ trust, and blur the lines between news and propaganda. Furthermore, they compromise America’s right to be informed on the matters affecting their lives. Of course, Sinclair executives defend their practices citing how the mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal and that their pieces provide a counterweight but that’s based on an intellectually dishonest interpretation of what journalism is.

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Remember when Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs? Well, Montana’s NBC affiliate KECI refused to air the audio recording on account that there wasn’t enough facts on the incident. Despite that the audio clearly shows Gianforte started and that 3 local Fox News reporters watched it. It was later found Sinclair had just bought the station and that its vice president and director had donated to Gianforte’s campaign. So figure it out.

Sinclair also dictates how news stations can present some of the local news and programming is presented aside from the “must run” segments and scripts. Even before the Trump administration, Sinclair had a nasty habit of skewing news stories to fit with their conservative vision, censor content, and promote disparaging and very misleading information on Democratic candidates. In 2004, the company ordered its ABC affiliates to not air an episode of Nightline where Ted Koppel listed the names of soldiers killed in the Iraq War. They argued that the broadcast, “[appeared] to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq” and undermined a then-ongoing effort by its Washington bureau to report on positive “untold” stories from Iraq under occupation mainstream media outlets ignored. ABC responded stating that Koppel’s reading was meant to be “an expression of respect which seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country.” And it was a gesture Arizona US Senator John McCain found “deeply offensive.” That same year, tried to air an anti-John Kerry documentary called, “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” alleging “that North Vietnamese captors used Kerry’s statements about atrocities committed by American troops during the conflict as an excuse to torture U.S. prisoners of war.” But the Democratic National Committee filed a legal motion with the Federal Election Commission stating it was inappropriate for a media organization to air “partisan propaganda” in the last 10 days of an election campaign. Then-Vice President of Corporate Relations Mark Hyman stated that any network refusing to air the anti-Kerry documentary were “acting like Holocaust deniers.” And when Sinclair’s Washington bureau chief Jon Leiberman called the documentary, “biased political propaganda,” he was promptly fired. As for President Barack Obama, well, Sinclair has linked him to Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers, alleged he raised campaign funds from Hamas and labeled him as a socialist extremist. In 2014, its Baltimore Fox affiliate WBFF according to The Baltimore Sun, “misleadingly edited and aired video of a protest march to make it seem as if protesters were chanting ‘kill a cop.’” In reality, the marchers actually chanted to the lead of Tawanda Jones, “We can’t stop ‘til killer cops are in cell blocks” in a non-violent protest against police brutality. Jones would eventually sue WBFF and Sinclair for defamation the next year. Because after that segment aired, she received death threats, lost community support for her protests, and had been reduced to reclusive behavior. In 2017, Montana’s NBC affiliate KECI refused to air an audio recording of GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The station denied Sinclair instructing them on handling the Gianforte incident and essentially framed it as an “he said/she said” situation. This despite that the audio recording covers it, Jacobs ended up in the hospital, and 3 Fox News reporters witnessed it. That and Politico later reported that Sinclair’s vice president and director had donated to Gianforte the day after he was charged with the assault. This July, Sinclair affiliate KBOI used a photo of Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKeeson in several stories he had nothing to do with including an attempted robbery in Idaho.

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Here’s a “must run” segment of “Bottom Line with Boris.” A former investment banker who was born in Soviet Russia, Boris Ephsteyn was a Trump crony during the 2016 campaign and in the White House. On his Sinclair segment, he normally parrots Trump White House commentary which stations are required to air 9 times a week.

But Sinclair’s connection with Republican politicians and operatives doesn’t just extend to media coverage. A 2004 study found that 95% of the company’s political contributions went to Republican candidates. The Center of Public Integrity showed concern on Mark Hyman’s history of government lobbying (such as for the FCC to loosen rules regarding media ownership concentration), along with making its stations provide “anything but fair and balanced news programming.” In 2002, the company gave lots of perks like using its luxury helicopter to former congressman Bob Ehrlich during his run for governor of Maryland. Mostly because Ehrlich pressed the FCC to fast-track its request to acquire more stations. In 2007, 9 Sinclair stations aired public affairs shows without disclosing that “host Armstrong Williams had been paid by an affiliate of the Education Department to make favorable comments about the Bush administration’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ policy.” The FCC issued the company a $36,000 fine for violating “rules against ‘payola punditry.’” In December 2016, Jared Kushner said that the Trump campaign, “struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage” particularly in swing states. As part of that deal, “Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary.” The Washington Post noted that the company scored 15 exclusive interviews with Donald Trump in a year while “news stories and features favorable to Trump or that challenged Clinton were distributed to Sinclair stations on a ‘must-run’ basis.” Of course, Trump would appoint Pai to head the FCC Ajit Pai pushed through a measure that would allow the Sinclair-Tribune merger to go forward. Recently, Pai has further proposed eliminating a rule requiring each TV station to have a main studio in or near the community it serves, arguing that modern technology allows community interaction without one. But critics charge the action as another handout for Sinclair as former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argues, “will have an open field to replace local voices with national control.” In April 2017, Sinclair hired former Trump official Boris Epshteyn as its “chief policy analyst” whose must run “Bottom Line with Boris” segments air on its local news affiliates 9 times a week. Yet, Epshteyn is a shady character. He’s pleaded guilty to assault in 2014. The House Intelligence Committee has questioned his ties to the Kremlin. In the 2016 campaign season, he dismissed Gold Star father Khizir Khan as a Democratic prop. And during his time in the Trump administration, he crafted the notorious Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that omitting any mention of Judaism. He left the White House that March amid reports that every cable news network hated him.

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The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s rapid expansion and promotion of conservative politics highlights serious consequences of media consolidation. And as John Oliver noted, “Should this Tribune acquisition go through, there are going to be even more good journalists having to see their hard work placed alongside terror desk nonsense, just as there’ll be even more unsuspecting audience members who will be getting a heaping dose of Sinclair’s content, possibly without realizing it.” Perhaps it’s best you google your local stations and find out who owns it. If your local market has a Sinclair station, then expect that station to carry a lot of right wing bullshit. If it’s a Tribune, then pray to God that the acquisition doesn’t go through. For the Sinclair-Tribune merger is a very bad deal for America.

It’s one thing for a news station like Fox News to deliberately mislead the public to advance its own political agenda. But it’s very disturbing for a company like Sinclair to injecting intentionally misleading political diatribes where it has no place. It’s even worse that Sinclair forces news local stations run such content they know is bullshit and undermine viewers’ trust in them. If not, then perhaps warp their minds into accepting right wing talking points as undisputable fact as Sinclair would intend. For as John Oliver said, “The problem is, there is real power in hearing your trusted local newscasters using FBI and personal vendetta in a sentence.” Because after all, most people don’t really know who really owns their local station since they’re often branded with the national network that broadcasts on them, not the real owners. Nor do they seem to critically think about these stories aired on their local station. Scaremongering and propaganda have no place in local news since it’s corrosive to our democratic process. Sinclair’s “must-run” segments and other policies rob viewers of hearing local and opposing viewpoints. Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune would lead to less competition, threaten media localism, and harm information diversity. Thus, it would best for the country if the Sinclair and Tribune merger doesn’t go through. Sinclair is a cancer on the local news and our democracy as well as should be stopped from buying more stations. No major media company should have that much power, especially if they’re abusing the trust between the public and their local news stations in order to advance their political agenda. But it also means that we must be more careful of what we hear on the news and know who owns them.

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It’s widely said that Americans trust their local TV news broadcasts than any other source. For years, Sinclair has often abused that trust and eroded journalistic standards with their conservative propaganda. Advancing a political agenda has no place in a local newsroom meant to cover actual news stories, sports, traffic, and weather.

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The Shadowy World of InfoWars

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I know many people might think I’m being biased over writing posts bashing right-wing news outlets. But though I am a liberal, I don’t just write these articles to score political points. For instance, back in October I criticized Fox News for a lot of the shit they’re being bashed for now like a culture fostering sexual harassment and peddling conspiracy theories. Months later, I attacked Breitbart for its corrosive influence on the conservative media landscape during the 2016 Election, its flagrant demonization against those Steve Bannon doesn’t like, its lack of concern for facts, and its status as the platform for the Alt-Right. Besides, in recent years, white supremacist and far right terror incidents have been on the rise, especially since the presidential election of Donald Trump. Breitbart and Fox News have certainly played a role in implicitly encouraging such attacks whether they’d want to admit it or not.

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Don’t worry, InfoWars only had press credentials for one day only. By the way, like Alex Jones, Corsi has also made a living pushing conspiracy theories, including the claim of Barack Obama having a fake birth certificate.

But there’s another media outlet I need to discuss with my readers and that is InfoWars, a far right conspiracy-based website created, owned, and operated by Austin, Texas-based radio host Alex Jones. In fact, type InfoWars on Wikipedia and you’ll be directed to an article on Jones. In late May, its Washington Bureau Chief Jerome Corsi broadcast from the White House briefing room after announcing they had obtained a temporary press credential. Fortunately, it was only a one-day pass that was relatively easy to get. And Jones once claimed in a video back in January he had been offered access before which the White House quickly denied. The odds of InfoWars obtaining any press credentials at all from the White House Press Office are highly unlikely or so we hope. Nevertheless, it’s very apparent that the far right website has the Trump Administration’s ear. Trump has appeared on Jones’s show multiple times during the 2016 Election and has welcomed the host’s support as well as parroted his message on numerous occasions. His adviser Roger Stone was a regular guest. During the GOP Convention last July, Stone and Jones co-hosted a pro-Trump rally. Trump campaign aides and Donald Trump Jr. have promoted InfoWars stories on social media. And Trump has often promoted a lot of Jones conspiracy theories at his rallies such as Jersey City Muslims cheering on 9/11 and California drought denial. In exchange, Jones has gained prominence since then.

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Alex Jones and his InfoWars have risen considerably since the 2016 Election thanks to Donald Trump’s candidacy. Jones has endorsed him while Trump has appeared on his show seen here. Still, Trump’s association with Jones should terrify you if you care about facts.

Of course, this article will probably speak more about Alex Jones with InfoWars only being the principal part of his multimedia empire. Aside from his infamous conspiracy-themed website, Jones also hosts a nationally broadcast radio show called “The Alex Jones Show” and runs another similar website called Prison Planet. He also peddles an extensive line of self-produced videos he refers as “documentaries” that claim to prove a whole array of his conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, despite media outlets denouncing him as a fraud for years, Jones retains considerable and widespread influence. His radio show airs on about 100 radio stations and has attracted about 2-3 million weekly listeners.  His subscription only video streaming website Prison Planet has a 3,327 Alexa rank. But his biggest media platform is InfoWars which has a 330 Alexa rank and attracts more than 8 million visitors each month who’ve viewed its pages 50 million times. The biggest of his 18 YouTube channels has 1.2 billion views and his Facebook page has millions of followers. In 2011, Rolling Stone reported that Jones had a larger online audience than Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh combined. For a radical right conspiracy theorist, this degree of popularity is extensive. And it was one of the key conservative news sources for the 2016 Election.

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Alex Jones is one of the most prominent conspiracy theorists in the country best known for saying that 9/11 was an inside job and his “documentary” about it called Loose Change. However, you must remember that this paranoid, hate-filled man is full of some of the stinkiest bullshit you’ll ever hear. Seriously, InfoWars is a flagrant outlet of fake news.

However, we must concede that Alex Jones is a very dangerous man in the US media landscape. He is almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America and possibly the one with the most far-reaching influence in the nation’s history. But there is a very good reason why the Southern Poverty Law Center an extremist file on him. Jones is no ordinary radio host and has lived in his own little world for the last 20 years filled with intrigue, scandals, cover ups, and conspiracies. Called by Rolling Stone as “the most paranoid man in America,” Jones is notorious for his epic rants about “New World Order” plots for world government, enforced eugenics, secret internment camps, militarized police, and behind-the-scenes control by a global corporate cabal. He is convinced that global elites have allied themselves against the United States to destroy the country. The only way to avert this dystopian future as far as he’s concerned is if true patriots resist before it’s too late. Jones is also infamous for his many predictions and never stops reminding his viewers of the one he made in July 2001 that came somewhat close to foreshadowing 9/11. Yet, not surprisingly his overall accuracy rate his infinitesimally low. In February 2010 he stated that at least 15 European nations will collapse within the next 16 months. In March 2010, he declared that there will be staged terror attacks on April 15 or 19 to coincide with anti-Tea Party documentaries releases on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and HBO. And in May 2010, he predicted that the US dollar will be devalued by 50% within 2 years.

 

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Here are some InfoWars headlines to give you some insight. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of offensive bullshit to get you mad about. With fake news, there’s nothing more unreliable than Alex Jones and InfoWars.

For years, Jones has offered his own version that’s completely unsupported by evidence but often reflect his paranoid, unhinged, racist, and misogynist worldview. Time after time he’s decried terrorist attacks like 9/11, the Boston Marathon and Oklahoma City bombings, and various mass shootings such as those in Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Tucson, Charleston, and the Washington Navy Yard as actually “false flag” operations by our government or evil “globalist” forces wanting to take over the world. He’s referred to gay marriage as a globalist conspiracy to encourage the breakdown of the family,” “to get rid of God,” and to promote pedophilia. He’s called the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a “hoax” created by gun control advocates as well as alleged that the victims were child actors and that nobody was killed there. Jones views himself as a libertarian and an “aggressive constitutionalist” defending individual liberties, the Bill of Rights, property rights, and the security of U.S. borders against illegal immigrant hordes being ushered in by evil forces bent on destroying our society. Because to him, illegal immigrants exist in the US to “give corporations subsidized low wages — because they can’t live on the low wages they get, so they give them the welfare, and that’s designed to give the big corporations an unfair trading advantage. They’re using poverty as a tool of control.” He’s even alleged millions of undocumented immigrants of illegally voting in the 2016 Election. Many of his theories could be seen as outright ridiculous such as the notion of the government having weapons that create artificial tornadoes.  Or that the government is poisoning our drinking water through fluoridation. Or that Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was a Satanic ritual. Or that Bill Gates is a eugenicist trying to wipe out minorities. Or that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring at a D.C.-area pizzeria. Actually anything bad about Hillary. Or that “tap water is a gay bomb and they are putting chemicals in the water to turn the friggin’ frogs gay.” Or that Glenn Beck is a CIA operative. Or that the Social Security Administration is buying ammunition to use against the public during unrest. Or that the moon landing was fake. Other claims include claims that “chemtrails” from the backs of planes spread a deadly “weaponized flu,” that juice boxes are turning children gay and that the musician Beyoncé is a CIA plant out to stir racial violence and “literally” eat the brains of children. He’s even pushed the idea that aliens in lizard form secretly orchestrate world events.

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Alex Jones makes a lot of his money through selling supplements like these and other products. Unfortunately, exploiting his fans’ fear and paranoia has been good business for him.

Many might view Alex Jones as a bad joke and a crazy man prone to on air meltdowns. But no matter how crazy his conspiracy theories could be, what makes him dangerous is that legions of his acolytes take him at his every word. Like any conspiracy theorist, Jones manipulates psychological fears of the vulnerable into complete acceptance of nearly anything he says- no matter how outlandish it may be. According to Der Spiegel, 2/3 of Jones’s funding comes from marketing his own products. He sells toothpaste, brain pills, bulletproof vests and guns, sleeping pills, potency supplements, and “recession-proof investments in gold coins and other precious metals offered by his syndicator-owned Midas Resources. And since InfoWars appeals to those believing Armageddon is near, business is doing well as his followers build bunkers, hoard food, and invest in precious metals. Yet, Jones’s rantings have had real impact. In 2015, he helped spark a hysterical reaction to the Jade Helm, a US military exercise designed to help soldiers train for various combat environments. Jones swore it was a cover for the beginning stages of martial law. Enough people believed him that the Army had to send surrogates to calm anxious citizens. He’s also argued that Chobani’s practice of hiring refugees has brought “migrant rapists” and tuberculosis to areas near their factories. This resulted in a boycott and Chobani filing a defamation lawsuit.

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One of the most egregious Alex Jones conspiracy theories was his take on the Sandy Hook shooting at Newtown being a hoax by the liberals to promote gun control. He even alleged that the dead children were child actors and that nobody actually died there. Many of the victims’ families have been harassed by some of his fans. And the Sandy Hook families were furious when they heard that Megyn Kelly would be interviewing him for her NBC Sunday show.

But some of Alex Jones’s fans don’t just buy his supplements, prepare for the apocalypse, or panic over certain stuff they don’t understand. In fact, a few of them have resorted to deadly violence. The SPLC’s Heidi Beirich has referred to Jones as a gateway drug for white supremacy with many leaders crediting his broadcasts for opening their minds to new thinking as they adopted their racist philosophy, including Daily Stormer Andrew Angling and Info Stormer Lee Rogers. The 2009 Pittsburgh cop killer Richard Poplawski was a frequent InfoWars visitor who frequently shared links from the site to others and sometimes even posted on it. The 2011 Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner was a fan of Jones’s film, Loose Change, a gospel source for anyone believing 9/11 was an inside job. 2014 North Las Vegas shooter Jerad Miller was an InfoWars forum member who wrote posts speculating about killing cops and avidly posted links from the site on his Facebook page. He and his wife Amanda ended up killing two cops and an armed civilian at a Cici’s Pizza and a Walmart. In October 2016, two Georgia men were arrested in connection with an alleged domestic terror plot to travel nearly 3,500 miles to a former military research facility in Alaska that they believed manipulates the weather, controls minds and traps souls. Both men had amassed an arsenal of AR-15 military-style assault rifles, four Glock handguns, a rifle and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition, radios and flak jackets. They planned to use these weapons to attack the Alaska’s High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), a large radio transmitter cited in numerous antigovernment conspiracy theories. And in December of that year a North Carolina man stormed a Washington D.C. pizza joint called Comet Ping-Pong to “self-investigate” rumors that the restaurant was the was the center of child sex-slave ring with connections to the Hillary Clinton campaign. After an FBI complaint showed that gunman Edgar Welch watched an InfoWars “documentary,” Jones scrubbed his site of most of its Pizzagate content in order to distance himself from the impact of this extremely toxic lie. That’s not even talking about all the shit the Sandy Hook victims’ families had to put up with. Nevertheless, Jones’s influence on the radical right is very widespread. Though he hasn’t instigated any attacks, he sure provides many terrorists plenty of inspiration.

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Even before Trump, Alex Jones has somewhat been mainstreamed among the conservative media. Here he is with US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Yes, you got that right.

While many people could simply write off Alex Jones as a crazy, we must keep in mind that conservative media outlets frequently aggregate and propagate InfoWars stories. In November 2016, the conspiracy website published a piece citing an unverified claim from a former Texas health deputy commissioner that 3 million non-citizens voted illegally which was later linked to the Drudge Report. 13 days later it appeared in Trump’s Twitter account. More recently, in early March an InfoWars editor tweeted an old photo of New York Senator Chuck Schumer acting chummy with Vladimir Putin. 12 hours later it appeared atop the Drudge Report and 12 hours after that, Trump had tweeted it. Even before the 2016 Election, Jones and his theories were already making rapid inroads into the mainstream mainly thanks to the Drudge Report. But Matt Drudge wasn’t the only validator. Other luminaries have appeared on Jones’s show such as Rep. Ron and Sen. Rand Paul, Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano, and celebrities Ted Nugent and Charlie Sheen. Fox News has aired plenty of his theories for years and he has been a guest on the network. Though the ones Fox airs often aren’t remotely related to the crazier New World Order stuff, they do serve to help promote a certain conservative worldview. And a lot of these seem to pertain to liberals and minorities. For instance, the idea that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton was all over the news. During the 2016 Election, the right wing assault on Hillary Clinton comprised of several fake news stories were daily mainstream media headlines despite not having a single shred of evidence to support them. Though to be fair, the modern conservative movement has long been afflicted with conspiracy theorists since its origins in the 1950s and 60s. Even “respectable” elements like Glenn Beck and the National Review have been very happy to manipulate far right conspiracies either to build support for typical Republicans or to make a buck. This strategy made it much easier for someone like Jones to get into the party’s foothold and come into contact with actual Republican legislators and key conservative media figures. So associating with a known right wing conspiracy theorist wasn’t much of a problem for Trump. Jones might’ve started as a fringe figure. But years of mainstreaming allowed him to build a real presence among Republican voters. And Jones’s rise helps explain why the formal GOP leadership had such a hard time disavowing him even during the primary.

Another reason that Alex Jones is dangerous is his association with Donald Trump. Trump has long been a big fan of his and a lot of his lies have come directly or indirectly from InfoWars. When he appeared on the site in December 2015, he declared Jones’s reputation “amazing” and told the internet fabulist, “I will not let you down. You will be very impressed, I hope, and I think we’ll be speaking a lot.” Jones’s support for Trump has elevated many of his fringe conspiracy theories to a mass audience. Trump’s embrace of Jones shouldn’t come as a surprise for us. After all, Trump got his start in politics by promoting “birtherism” and other racist Obama conspiracy theories. He’s a shameless opportunist with no personal ethics. Whether he believes Jones’s diatribes is beside the point. But he surely doesn’t care about the consequences. All that matters to him is that they’re receptive to an audience and give him what he wants. Through accepting Jones’s endorsement and courting the radical right, Trump helped legitimize him and his radical right fanbase. Trump has pushed some conspiracy theories Jones has originated like Hillary abusing drugs, massive voter fraud, that Justice Scalia was murdered, New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11, and that Rafael Cruz was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Nevertheless, since Republican leaders and media outlets were too used to conspiracy theorizing to get all worked about it. So associating with a known right wing conspiracy theorist wasn’t much of a problem for Trump. Yet, by embracing Jones, Trump also legitimizes him and all the ugly stuff his fans have done. And it doesn’t help that his administration isn’t cracking down on right wing terrorism which is a serious problem in this country.

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It’s one thing for Alex Jones to influence extremists to become terrorists. But it’s scary as hell that Donald Trump purveys many of his conspiracy theories to the masses. Promoting conspiracies is what dictators do in authoritarian regimes. Not democratically elected presidents.

Nevertheless, a conspiracy theorist like Alex Jones is dangerous enough that his conspiracy theories have hurt people and ruined lives. It’s bad enough that his theories have inspired terrorism and hate incidents. But it’s even worse that Jones is embraced by people in power, especially a president like Donald Trump who pushes his theories and may even make decisions based on them. To have a president like this who legitimizes Jones can undermine democracy and who knows what else. The United States was already led into a war in Iraq over a lie about weapons of mass destruction. We need to understand that when people believe in conspiracy theories in their worldview, there can be very terrible consequences. People might start questioning established facts that don’t confirm to their ideology, perhaps to the point that they may not trust institutions like government, the media, science, and even religion. Marginalized people might be demonized as freeloaders, job stealers, criminals, and even terrorists. Public figures are smeared. And anyone perceived as a scapegoat can be a targeted with violence. When leaders believe such ideas, they can implement them in policies that could undermine the public good. After all, pushing conspiracy theories to the masses is what authoritarian dictators do in order to get the public to do what they want, hate who they hate, hurt who they want hurt, and even give up their rights over perceived threats that don’t really exist. InfoWars isn’t fact-based media and there’s no reason to believe anything Alex Jones says as his dark and distorted view of the world has no basis in reality. But since he has an audience to rival mainstream outlets, plenty of believers, and fans who’ve committed illegal acts based on his claims, we must take him seriously. Because though Jones may not be a violent criminal on the streets, his influence poses a special kind of danger, especially if leaders believe his claims.

Shooting the Messenger

Last week, on the eve of a special congressional election in Montana, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs pressed Republican candidate Greg Gianforte to answer questions on the American Healthcare Act. In response, Gianforte grabbed his neck, threw Jacobs to the floor, punched him, and broke his glasses. Gianforte’s team tried to blame Jacobs for the altercation and pass him as the aggressor. But the Fox News crew witnessing the incident repudiate him saying, “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.” The audio recording clearly illustrates what they saw with the candidate shouting, “I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last time you came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?” Gianforte was later charged with an assault misdemeanor (by a sheriff who donated to his campaign, incidentally) which can result in either a $500 fine or a 6 month jail sentence if convicted. The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, and The Helena Independent Record all rescinded their endorsements of the Republican favorite. However, he still won with 51% of the vote in the state. Though to be fair, he was already expected to win and over 2/3 of Montanans had already cast their vote before the body slamming incident. So whatever Gianforte did at the moment wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Nor does his election mean that Montanans were okay with his actions. Nevertheless, conservatives and supporters were quick to defend the now congressman-elect. Gianforte’s campaign blamed the incident on “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist.” They alleged Jacobs, “aggressively shoved a recorder” in Gianforte’s face and refused to leave. And that “Greg attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground” to defend himself against “badgering questions.” Fox News pundits explained that the Gianforte had merely given Jacobs, a taste of “Montana justice.” Geraldo Rivera remarked that Monatanans “are no strangers to the more robust way of living.” While Laura Ingraham asked, “What would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?” In addition, Gianforte was even able to reap over $100,000 before the vote with most of it contributed after the incident. Texas Governor Greg Abbott even joked about shooting reporters. Other Republican politicians mostly brushed it off as if his choke-slamming a reporter either didn’t occur or wasn’t a problem.

Gianforte’s assault on Jacobs isn’t the first recent incident involving physical attacks on journalists. On May 18, security guards pinned CQ Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly against a wall during an open Federal Communications Commission meeting. All what Donnelly tried to do was question a commissioner as he recalled, “I could have not been less threatening or more polite. There is no justification for using force in such a situation.” He was held until FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had passed and was escorted out of the building. And on May 10, police arrested reporter Dan Heyman of Public News Service for “willful disruption of state government processes” at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston. What Heyman did was repeatedly ask if domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the GOP healthcare bill to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Price defended the police, saying they did what was appropriate. In March, Trump supporters allegedly assaulted an OC Weekly reporter and two photographers during a rally at Huntington Beach. And in 2016, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was videotaped grabbing Breitbart’s Michelle Fields and pulling her away from the candidate while she was trying to ask Trump a question. Though prosecutors declined to pursue charges for assault. Then a day after Gianforte’s election, there was a criminal mischief shooting at the offices of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky which resulted in a window shattered and other minor damages. Not to mention, a fake bomb threat at a printing works 75 miles out of town.

It’s very clear Donald Trump has been responsible for the growing and increasingly dangerous hostility toward the press. Since he began his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has thrived on demonizing the media as “the enemy of the people” on daily Twitter taunts whenever he can. Throughout his campaign, he’d refer to the press as “dishonest, disgusting, slime, and scum.” He called political reporters the worst human beings on earth. And at rallies, he prompted crowds and thousands of supporters “to turn without fail, to jeer and sometimes curse at the press,” according to CNN. At a rally in Harrisburg to mark his 100th day as president, Trump trashed the media saying, “Their priorities are not my priorities, and not your priorities. If the media’s job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.” According to recent reports, Trump had instructed then-FBI Director James Comey to jail journalists for publishing classified leaks. Yet, the danger isn’t just that Trump speaks of the media with such hostility. Rather it’s that his supporters believe him. It doesn’t help that there’s broad skepticism of the press with recent Gallup polls showing 20% of Americans having confidence in newspapers and TV broadcasts.

We need to understand that Trump’s hostility toward the media has been well-known for years. Not because he hates the press. He doesn’t. But because he absolutely despises whenever anyone says anything undermining his brand or his ego, especially if it’s the truth. Unfortunately for him, Trump has a long history of mind boggling corruption pertaining to unethical business practices, shady ties, personal misconduct, misusing public funds, and little regard for the law when it suits his bottom line. It’s well-known Trump has gone to great lengths to avoid taking responsibility for his actions whether it be through filing or threatening lawsuits, dragging court battles against his victims, framing someone else for them, peddling conspiracy theories, paying off officials, character assassination, appealing to his well-born privilege, or what have you. The news media is no exception for they’ve reported on his misdeeds for decades. Unlike Trump, they’ve often backed their claims with evidence consisting of court transcripts, eyewitness testimony, financial records, or basic facts about him. After all, the media is charged with telling the truth. And the truth is Trump is a thoroughly despicable human being. Trump has often and viciously retaliated in response because he knows the media can turn people against him for exposing him as the kind of horrible man he really is. Or that the media tells the public that his nefarious actions shouldn’t be acceptable, which looks bad on him. Now that he’s GOP leader and president, he can delegitimize the media’s claims all he wants with his lies and people would still defend him for whatever reason. In many ways, Trump’s decrying of the media as “fake news” is a form of character assassination to discredit their reports on him. Or in other words, “shooting the messenger” because he doesn’t like what the messenger has to say. For he feels it’s the media’s job to provide him with coverage so he can dominate the airwaves to reach his fans and to make him look good with unconditional adulation. Yet, since Trump is known for his lack of transparency, lack of self-awareness, and flagrant lies, it’s better to side with the media who at least fact-checks before going on air or print. Whereas, Trump incessantly demonizes the mainstream media as “fake news” for reporting on stuff he doesn’t like. So for me, whenever it’s Trump vs. the media, the media wins every time.

Now it may be news to conservatives. But the media has no obligation to tell the public what they’re comfortable to hear. Sure they may whine about the mainstream media having a liberal bias because it doesn’t cater to their worldview like Fox News does. And while the mainstream media may not always be fair, balanced, or provide adequate coverage of what’s going on in the world, there have been countless time when liberals have been unhappy with the news. Just watch any political satire or comedy show like The Daily Show, Colbert, Last Week Tonight, or Full Frontal. Jon Stewart once devoted considerable Daily Show airtime to CNBC for their coverage on the stock market before the 2008 Recession as well as frequently attacked CNN. Also, the mainstream media has come under constant criticism for ignoring marginalized and more progressive voices like ethnic religious minorities, poor people, social justice activists, and doves. In addition, since a lot of media outlets are owned by huge corporate conglomerate, you’d be hard pressed to find broadcasts pertaining to net neutrality, profiteering in the criminal justice system, labor conditions, or wage theft. Not to mention, the sheer girth of news stories out there that leads to many important stories to fall through the cracks for whatever reason. And how media sensationalism leads many outlets to focus on less important instances for entertainment value and ratings. Or how cable news outlets unintentionally mislead the public by treating politics as a spectator sport. Or even how they endlessly speculate on certain events they don’t know much about. I was especially not happy with media coverage on the 2016 Election, which appeared to devote loads of airtime to Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal while barely paying attention to Trump’s far more serious scandals at all (though many major newspapers, magazines, and websites didn’t). Nor was I too thrilled about their coverage on certain domestic terror incidents like the one about a right-wing militia seizing an Oregon wildlife refuge. And don’t get me started on how local news devotes considerably more time to crime stories than local and state politics, especially on policies that affect people’s lives. Yet, despite all of that, my fellow liberals and I have never saw the press as “enemies of the people.” Nor even considered inflicting violence on journalists. Even if they come from right-wing outlets like Fox News as they call themselves. After all, the media is only a messenger to inform the public what’s going on with the world whether they want to hear it or not. Aside from several ideological outlets, it largely serves no partisan agenda but the truth and an audience.

That being said, a politician physically attacking or apprehending a journalist for merely asking a question they don’t want to answer isn’t brave or noble. In fact, it’s an act of cowardice which should never be defended or encouraged. Gianforte’s body slam on Jacobs is no exception. After all, Jacobs was just trying to do his job and was professionally obligated not to fight back. He only asked Gianforte on a cruel policy that could leave 23 million Americans without health insurance as well as result in thousands of personal bankruptcies and highly preventable deaths. In other words, a reasonable and relevant question on a policy Americans want to know where their elected officials stand since it affects their lives. Yet, Gianforte responded with unprovoked violence because he didn’t want to answer it. Whereas most candidates in his place would’ve simply answered the question. Sure they’d probably try to explain their position with dishonest spin, an irrelevant explanation, or an unconvincing argument their opponents would use in an attack ad. But that’s what political candidates have to put up with. We should understand that Gianforte didn’t take a clear public position on the deeply unpopular bill during the special election. Nor apologize to Jacobs until after he won his seat. He also threatened the news media before and spent all election day hiding from reporters. Gianforte’s attack on Jacobs was clearly motivated by fear. He’s for the AHCA and knew his position didn’t represent what most of his constituents thought of it. Since he was running a close race against Rob Quist, he didn’t want voters to know where he stood. So he pummeled a reporter who had the gall to ask about it.

Nevertheless, Gianforte’s attack on Jacobs and the troubling fallout is frightening. Part of an elected official’s job involves answering questions and dealing with journalists is part of the bargain. Even if the questions make them uncomfortable and the exchanges can occasionally be infuriating. But having elected officials take questions and give answers is fundamental to the basic practice of democracy. Only demagogues and wannabe dictators refuse to engage, dodge hard questions, and hide from the media. Using violence to quiet journalists may not make a man like Gianforte a totalitarian monster. But his attack on Jacobs reveals he doesn’t respect the basic rights of reporters or anyone else to ask questions. Nor does he believe he has any obligation to respond to them. In losing his temper, Gianforte illustrated his contempt for anyone taking it for granted that our elected officials owe us their attention and their answers. Too bad too many Montana voters learned too late that their new at-large representative isn’t fit to hold public office in a democracy. After all, most Americans do believe that the politicians they elect to represent them owe an explanation for the decisions they make and the votes they cast. And they should be held accountable for policy decisions that affect their lives. Suppose you went down to City Hall and asked your council representative whether they favor lowering taxes, building a new library, fixing the sidewalk in front of your house. Would you expect an answer or a nosebleed? Most likely an answer. Let’s say you write to your US Representative asking about well, EPA regulations or farm subsidies and they don’t like the question. Would it be okay for that rep to send goons to your house to rough you up a little in order to keep your mouth shut? Of course not.

In many ways, the relationship between the press and politicians is supposed to be adversarial. So much so that journalists should expect an occasional rhetorical attack when covering politics whether be criticism for a lousy story during a rally, shouting on the phone, or tossing off a casual insult about the media. But at the same time, no matter how tense things get, the relationship should be civil. Politicians should have a healthy respect for the press even when they’re annoyed. Or at least enough respect to not beat up reporters whenever they ask a hard question. The worst a journalist should have to fear is a politician’s dirty look or a tsk-tsk from a spouse or child. Not physical assault. After all, without the media how can politicians communicate with their constituents? And how can people know where their elected officials stand or what they’re doing?

Nevertheless, for years Republican politicians and conservatives have attacked the mainstream media for years over alleged “liberal” bias in order to smear and discredit an unflattering news story as well as its author. Casting doubt on someone’s motives whenever they’re an obstacle to your ambitions is part of the game. And yes, it can be fun for awhile. But as we’ve seen in Montana, it can be corrosive over time. The fact Gianforte’s team referred to Jacobs as a “liberal journalist” as an implicit excuse for his violent behavior suggests that the candidate struck out at an enemy instead of a reporter just doing his job. Yet, we should keep in mind that Republicans were perfectly fine with electing a president whose onetime campaign manager assaulted a reporter from a media outlet once led by his closest advisers. And like Jacobs, Fields also got assaulted for trying to ask a question yet a “liberal journalist” she definitely wasn’t. And a president according to University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “has contributed to a climate of discourse consistent with assaulting a reporter for asking an inconvenient question.” If you think attacks on journalists just to those in the so-called “liberal media,” it’s not always the case. But we should understand that many media usually fill the messenger role and usually don’t have a partisan motive unless stated otherwise. Nevertheless, while conservatives have criticized the mainstream media for liberal bias for several years, Trump escalated it to full-blown antagonism with terrible consequences.

Trump’s repeated denunciations of critical press has normalized hatred for journalists and by implication even encouraged physical attacks. Though to blame Trump alone may be unfair, but he’s at least broadened acceptance on bullying tactics by embracing and even celebrating resolving differences by force, if necessary. And though Trump hasn’t personally committed violence against reporters, his rhetoric makes such acts much more acceptable to conservative voters. According to University of Maryland professor Lucy Dalglish, “Trump has created an atmosphere where it’s not only okay — it’s encouraged — to disparage and mistreat journalists,” even while journalism is “the only profession” that is “specifically covered by the First Amendment.” She went on to say, “Every time he calls out a reporter for being ‘the enemy of the people,’ he is putting a bullseye on the back of about a dozen reporters. People in oppressed countries know what a free press is. This administration does not.” Doesn’t help that other politicians like Gianforte are following suit. As legal defense director for the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press Gregg Leslie states, “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the demonizing rhetoric that we’ve seen since the presidential campaign began is starting to have an effect on others, whether they’re candidates, security guards or other officials.” And it can’t be more clear than in the Columbia Journalism Review’s condemnation of Gianforte’s assault writing, “Trump’s rhetoric from the White House–the largest bully pulpit in the world — has implicitly condoned such behavior. Gianforte’s words in the moment, coupled with his campaign’s response to the allegations afterward, paint an alarming picture of a venomous media climate in which the most mundane acts of journalism have been politicized.”

For much of American history, the media has played a pivotal role in informing the public on what’s going on in the nation as well as the world. It is enshrined in our American ethos that a free press is critical to ensuring a free and functioning democracy. After all, the First Amendment guarantees us the inalienable right to question officials and pursue the truth to inform the public. So the public can form opinions and participate in politics whether it be election time or grassroots activism. Press freedom isn’t just important to journalists but also to every American citizen who cares about democracy and free speech. Gianforte’s attack on a reporter for asking him a question is an assault on constitutional rights and democratic norms. In addition, a president to who consistently demonizes the press for informing the public on things he doesn’t like makes journalists more vulnerable to physical violence. When political leaders either defend, condone, or ignore incidents like Gianforte’s assault on Jacobs, they undermine our constitutional rights, democratic values and our ability to hold our elected leaders responsible for the decisions that affect our lives. And as PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel remarked, “That should frighten any American, especially as these attacks could bleed into outright government censorship.  All responsible officials should step forward to reject this corrosion of American values and to defend the essential role of the media in our democracy.”

The Public Menace That Is Breitbart

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There is no doubt that President Evil Cheeto Head’s unanticipated victory during the 2016 Election shook the foundations of American politics. And the media wasted no time trying to find an explanation for it such as Russian hacking and “fake news.” Both are major concerns but neither theories seem to explain the whole story. Some attribute to polarization through social media in which people choose which media outlets to follow. Yet, that doesn’t explain everything either. Nevertheless, if anything’s for certain, it’s that Trump could never have ended up in the White House without the help of Breitbart News. Founded in 2005 by the late Andrew Breitbart, this is a conservative website the New York has described as an organization with “ideologically driven journalists” that generates controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist.” And it has a reputation for publishing a number of falsehoods and conspiracy theories, incendiary headlines, as well as intentionally misleading stories. However, it’s a site that makes Fox News seem like the BBC and it’s for people who think the cable news network is too polite and restrained. Yet, thanks to the Trump campaign and the 2016 Election, Breitbart has stepped out from the fringes of American politics and became a leading voice in the conservative media. This March, Breitbart tried become a credentialed member of the Senate Daily Press Gallery alongside mainstream outlets like the New York Times and USA Today. Had it got its way, then they’d have access to the Capitol on par with congressional staff and a place in the White House press pools. So far the Standing Committee of Correspondents has denied their request, for good reason. Because Breitbart News shouldn’t have any press accreditation as mainstream news outlet for various reasons. But first, a bit of background.

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Tracking Facebook and Twitter shares of over 1.25 stories published during the 2016 Election from 25,000 sources, a study at Harvard and MIT showed an insulated right-wing media sphere anchored around Breitbart. This map depicts the Facebook shares though the Twitter scheme looks fairly identical.

This March, a Harvard and MIT study reported in the Columbia Journalism Review offers a less exotic and far more disturbing explanation. Yet, it’s one that makes far more sense. Their study consisted of tracking over 1.25 million online stories from 25,000 sources published between April 2015 and Election Day using an open-source platform for media ecosystems called Media Cloud. They also analyzed hyperlinking patterns, social media sharing patterns on Facebook and Twitter, and content topic and language patterns within the stories. Their work showed a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed a distinct and insulated media system. Harnessing social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective of the world, this pro-Trump media sphere seemed to not only successfully instill a right-wing media agenda, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, particularly in covering Hillary Clinton. Though political and media polarization existed online, the Harvard study suggests that it was asymmetric. According to them, Clinton supporters were highly attentive to traditional media outlets alongside more left-wing sources. By contrast, Trump supporters paid most of their attention polarized outlets catered to affirming their political worldviews. Since one of the right-wing media’s central themes is attacking the “opposing” media’s integrity and professionalism, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Or at least whenever the so-called “liberal” media published stories containing information the right-wing media didn’t like such as negative press about Trump. And their vehement attacks on traditional journalism usually convince their audience to only trust them as if it’s the mainstream media’s mission to deceive rather than inform.

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Here’s a diagram of Twitter shares from various media outlets across the political spectrum. On the left, you have an even distribution of traditional and left-wing media outlets. On the right, once the threshold of partisan-only attention is reached, the number of right-wing sites dramatically increases.

Although it’s often said that the internet can fragment public discourse and polarize opinions by allowing us to filter news suiting our views, the Harvard and MIT study challenged that simple narrative. They concluded that had technology been the most important driver towards a “post-truth” world, we’d expect to see symmetric patterns on the left and right. But instead, they found that different internal political dynamics within the left and right-wings leading to different patterns in reception and technology use. Sure Facebook and Twitter enabled right-wing media to circumvent the traditional media’s gatekeeping power. But the pattern wasn’t symmetric. And in a way, the Harvard and MIT study seemed to confirm what many of us knew all along. For one, right-wing media outlets like talk radio and Fox News have contributed to increasing political polarization way before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Second, another study by the National Bureau of Economic Research has found polarization increasing faster among those using social media the least: white senior citizens. Third, the fact the Harvard and MIT study found the same asymmetric patterns on Facebook and Twitter suggested that human choices, culture, and politics played more of a role.

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Though “fake news” was often to blame for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election, it was less about wholly fabricated stories than disinformation. As you can see, Breitbart distinctly fits in the Conservative Utter Garbage category since it specializes in the latter.

Nor did the study find many of the most-shared stories qualifying as “fake news” in the context of wholly fabricated falsities created by politically disinterested parties out to make a buck on Facebook. Rather many of these most-shared stories would be more accurately understood as disinformation. For those who don’t know, disinformation is the deliberate combination of decontextualized truths, repeated falsehoods, and leaps of paranoid logic to create a fundamentally misleading view of the world. Again, this is no surprise since people are much more likely to believe in distorted news stories than fake ones altogether. Disinformation is a classic propaganda technique employed by authoritarian regimes and conspiracy theorists. Though partisan media use of disinformation is neither new nor limited to the right-wing, it is a much bigger problem than mere “fake news.” Nevertheless, over the course of the election, the right-wing media’s use of disinformation turned it into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community which reinforced their readers’ shared worldview and shielded them from the journalism challenging it. Through repetition, variation, and circulation, these right-wing media outlets made their claims familiar to their audiences. And their fluency with their core narrative gives credence to the incredible. The prevalence of such material created an environment where President Pussygrabber and his White House swamp cronies can tell their supporters anything and they’d still cheer for him. Yet, once again, since the right-wing media sphere has usually functioned this way well before the 2016 election as demonstrated by Fox News and Talk Radio.

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This Twitter share map from February 2016 shows less attention being placed at Fox News, thanks to Breitbart’s attacks of it. This effectively sidelined the cable news channel until after Trump won the GOP primary.

Nevertheless, when the folks at Harvard and MIT mapped their media sources through their methodology, they saw Breitbart as the center of a distinct right-wing media ecosystem, surrounded by Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, the Washington Examiner, Infowars, Conservative Treehouse, and Truthfeed. Their maps also show that the hyper-partisan attack pattern was set during the primary season within this right-wing media system. Not only did Breitbart and co. attack opposing candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio but also media that didn’t support Trump’s candidacy like Fox News. In early 2016, Breitbart aimed to delegitimize Fox News as conservative media’s central arbiter through sustained attacks tying it to immigration, terrorism, Muslims, and corruption. As a result, Fox News was effectively sidelined only to revive and integrate more closely with Breitbart and the rest of the right-wing media sphere once the primaries ended. From then, their target became all traditional media, Hillary Clinton, and immigration.

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During the 2016 Election, Breitbart would alter not just the conservative media ecosystem, but the mainstream media’s agenda as well. And it was because of the right-wing website that media outlets paid disproportionate attention to Hillary Clinton’s scandals and Trump’s stance on immigration. Trump’s scandals received considerably less coverage than they should’ve and I think it was a real shame. And I’m happy that the Washington Post called out the media for portraying Clinton as the corrupt one while Trump’s corruption is absolutely mind-boggling. Check out my post about Trump’s corruption scandals and you’ll see what I mean. I even have source listings.

As Breitbart assumed its role of central arbiter of conservative news, the right-wing media was able to bring focus on immigration as well as Hillary’s e-mails and other scandals to a broader media environment. Trump’s heavily substantive agenda on immigration and his direct attacks on Hillary would dominate public discussions. Coverage of Clinton overwhelmingly focused on her e-mails, the Clinton Foundation, and Benghazi. Whereas, Trump’s stories centered on immigration along with arguments on jobs and trade received more attention than his far more mind-boggling corruption scandals (which the Washington Post appropriately called out). Such coverage gave many Americans impression that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and untrustworthy and that Donald Trump cared for struggling working class whites. But it was a highly misleading one at its core. It was one newspapers, magazines, and several online media outlets immediately saw through, especially if they were extremely familiar with Trump. Because a lot of them wasted no time covering his long record of dirty business practices. However, that false impression convinced enough voters in critical swing states to choose Trump, vote third party, or not vote at all. Why? Because many of these Americans usually get their news from mainstream outlets, TV, radio, and/or the local paper. And while they’ve been familiar with Hillary Clinton’s baggage for decades, they mainly saw Trump as a rich successful businessman and reality TV star instead of the sociopathic con artist and demagogue he truly is.

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During the 2016 Election, Breitbart devoted disproportionate attention to immigration which was framed in terms of terror, crime, and Islam. Seeing this graph, it’s very clear that most of Trump’s supporters were motivated by xenophobia and racism.

Nevertheless, while the mainstream media was often critical, it nonetheless revolved around where Trump and Breitbart had common cause: immigration. Trump’s campaign and Breitbart’s coverage on immigration have made overt racism and xenophobia more acceptable to mainstream conservatism. Breitbart and other right-wing outlets would frame it in terms of terror, crime, and Islam with their immigration stories were among the most widely shared on social media and the site devoted disproportionate attention to it. And it didn’t help that many of the immigration issues they brought up weren’t very well understood. Take sanctuary cities, for instance. According to right-wing media, they’re consistently vilified as criminal hellholes where undocumented immigrants are free to roam around the streets and can get away with murder. The 2015 shooting death of Kathyrn Steinle was a frequent feature in Republican campaign ads, particularly Senator Pat Toomey’s. Sure San Francisco released her shooter from prison who had 5 deportations. But Juan Lopez-Sanchez’s record mostly consisted of unauthorized reentry and drug possession and had no outstanding warrant for his arrest. There was no way San Francisco could foresee Lopez-Sanchez killing someone. Furthermore, it’s possible Lopez-Sanchez killed Steinle by accident, which might explain everything. Yet, when you hear about the Steinle case, you get the impression Lopez-Sanchez was a violent thug whom San Francisco should’ve handed over to ICE for deportation. Trump’s hardline position on immigration has deeply resonated with conservative voters that within a week of Steinle’s death, his poll numbers shot up which placed him as the GOP frontrunner. Along with Breitbart and the RNC, Trump has made “sanctuary cities” a scapegoat embodying injustices falling upon Americans out of a perceived laissez-faire approach to immigration enforcement. Trump would often illustrate this by parading grieving families onstage at his rallies and at the Republican National Convention. And it’s one he’s used to justify shutting the US-Mexican border and deporting America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

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Though Breitbart is a popular conservative media website, it’s one that makes Fox News seem like the BBC. And recently, thanks to Steve Bannon, it’s shifted to more right-wing extremist ideas and has been identified with the alt-right. Today, you’ll find its comment section as former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro says, “a cesspool of white supremacist mememakers.”

The fact Breitbart has become one of the most popular news outlets on the right as well as played a critical role in the 2016 Election should be particularly troubling. Today, according to Alexa, it ranks as one of the top 1,000 most popular sites on the Internet as well as just outside the top 200 most popular sites in the US. As I’ve said before, Breitbart is a right-wing news website once run by now current Trump adviser Stephen Bannon who openly admitted the site as “the platform for the alt-right.” Under his watch, the outlet had undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing right-wing extremist ideas associated with the alt-right, Bannon’s target audience. I have written before that the alt-right is a loose set of far-right ideologies that share the core belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness, and social justice. And that white identity must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states. Since 2015, Breitbart has openly promoted the Alt-Right’s core issues and introduced their racist ideas to its readership, much to white nationalists’ glee for they could never dream of reaching a vast audience. Breitbart’s comment section is filled with white nationalist and anti-Semitic language reflects this. Since Bannon took over after founder Andrew Breitbart’s death in 2012, Breitbart has cheered on white nationalist groups as an “electric mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging a war against the so-called purveyors of “political correctness.” As Occidental Dissent’s Brad Griffin put it, “I think Breitbart has had a positive impact on our culture and politics. It is unwittingly engaging in what I call ‘discourse poisoning’. I assume the profit motive is at work here – anyway, it benefits us to erode taboos, so I don’t really care how much money they make. You could also say that we can look at Breitbart as a model that those of us who are further to the Right ought to be doing instead of writing history lectures or boring essays about obscure philosophers no one cares about.” Throughout the 2016 Election, outlinks to Breitbart steadily grew over the course of 2016 on the most prominent white supremacist websites. By late that year, the conservative website was topping media outlets like the UK’s sensationalist tabloid style Daily Mail and the neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer. It’s said the far-right boards of 4chan regularly linked Breitbart stories over 1,000 times a month.

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Here’s a sampling of inflammatory Breitbart headlines regarding Muslims and immigration. Though Islamophobia exists throughout the political spectrum, these are incredibly offensive. Though Islamic terrorism does exist, American Muslims are more likely to be terror victims than the terrorists they’re stereotyped as. These Anti-Muslim headlines only incite more hate.

Breitbart has always given a platform to some radical right movements even before Bannon took over. And this applied particularly those in the nativist and anti-Muslim set, which given the high rate of American Islamophobia isn’t completely unacceptable. Breitbart organized conferences featuring nativist speakers and published op-eds and interviews with movement leaders. Yet, since 2015, the right-wing news site started publishing more overtly racist diatribes about Muslims and immigrants. In May of that year, Breitbart published an article defending Pamela Geller for hosting a “Draw Mohammed Cartoon Contest” in Garland Texas. Geller’s drawing contest was a tactic many viewed as an act to incite and anger American Muslims. In fact, 2 armed men linked to ISIS targeted the event and were killed by police for attempting to storm the venue. Breitbart’s article was titled, “6 Reasons Pamela Geller’s Cartoon Contest is No Different from Selma” and it came with Geller’s photo alongside that of Martin Luther King Jr. in order to liken the notorious Muslim-basher with the great civil rights leader. Bannon has praised Geller as “one of the leading experts in the country, if not the world,” on Islam, while the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed her American Freedom Defense Initiative as an Anti-Muslim hate group. In February of 2016, Breitbart produced a 51-second anti-Muslim video about South Carolina introducing an anti-Shariah law bill depicting stoning executions and harsh punishments as warning that Shariah Law would undercut American justice. It was a claim echoing similar Anti-Muslim sentiments by activists fearing “creeping Shariah” will preempt the Constitution. A month earlier, Breitbart published an article by longtime anti-immigrant politician Tom Tancredo titled, “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture” which almost resembled a white nationalist screed. In it, Tancredo warned about an “epidemic” or rape across Europe and concluded with, “The Muslim rape culture is not a ‘dirty little secret — it is widely recognized as integral to Islam as taught in the Koran and the Hadith. Like honor killings and other parts of Sharia, it will not be wished away. And like honor killings, with massive Muslim immigration on the horizon, it could be coming to a town near you all too soon.” And in September of 2015, Breitbart attacked Pope Francis for his comments about the US welcoming more refugees by invoking a popular Alt-Right novel Camp of the Saints and lauding it with a quote by Pat Buchanan. Now the book depicts an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of dark skinned refugees, characterized as horrific and uncivilized “monsters” stopping at nothing to greedily and violently seize what rightfully belongs to the white man.

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Breitbart is also notoriously racist by likening blacks and Latinos as thugs committing crimes against whites at alarming rates. This headline appeared on Breitbart following the Charleston church shootings of 2015. If I had ever seen an extremely appalling response to a racially motivated mass shooting if there was one. Still, if you don’t think the Confederate flag is racist, then I have an entire article tearing that claim to shreds.

But Breitbart doesn’t just target Muslims and immigrants. Another popular racist conspiracy it propagates is the notion that African Americans are committing crimes against whites at alarming rates. Of course, linking blacks to crime isn’t unusual in right-wing media since Fox News does this all the time like calling Black Lives Matter protestors as a bunch of cop-killing lawless thugs. So does Breitbart which published a piece titled, “A SHORT LIST OF BLACK LIVES MATTER’S COP-KILLING HEROES.” Nor was Breitbart a stranger to this either. In 2009, the news outlet played a central role in promoting the ACORN undercover videos and had one of their reporters dressed as a prostitute, which led to the community organizing network’s demise. In 2010 released the edited Shirley Sherrod video titled “Proof NAACP Awards Racism” which got her fired from the Department of Agriculture. Oh, and in 2014, they reported that then Obama attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch served in Bill Clinton’s defense team during the Whitewater scandal when she didn’t. And they’ve also promoted Obama conspiracy theories like the often repeated falsehood that Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim.  In July 2015, following the Charleston church shooting, Breitbart published a piece entitled: “Hoist it high and proud: the Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage,” reeking of the white supremacist sentiment shooter Dylann Roof embraced. The next month, after the murder of a white journalist and cameraman live on air by a disgruntled African American former co-worker, Breitbart published the race-baiting headline, “Race Murder in Virginia: Black Reporter Suspected of Executing White Colleagues – On Live Television!” It is remarkably similar to ones seen on the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens’ website, which his dedicated to spreading falsehood to the public about the black crime “epidemic.” Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof credited the CCC website as being his gateway into white nationalism after stumbling upon it during a Google search on black on white crime. In addition, Bannon has credited now US Attorney General Jeff Sessions who’s referred to civil rights advocacy groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” And in July 2016, he accused the “Left” of a “plot to take down America,” by fixating on police shootings of black citizens and arguing that the 5 fallen police officers in Dallas were murdered “”by a #BlackLivesMatter-type activist-turned-sniper.” He even accused the mainstream media of an Orwellian “bait-and-switch as reporters and their Democratic allies and mentors seek to twist the subject from topics they don’t like to discuss—murderers with evil motives—to topics they do like to discuss, such as gun control.” He then added, “[H]ere’s a thought: What if the people getting shot by the cops did things to deserve it? There are, after all, in this world, some people who are naturally aggressive and violent.”

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Though Breitbart doesn’t claim to be anti-Semitic as well as hired Jewish reporters and has a bureau in Israel, it hasn’t stopped the site from publishing articles with these headlines. Not to mention, Steve Bannon is a noted anti-Semite as well as a good chunk of Breitbart’s audience.

Though Breitbart editors have repeatedly attacked critics connecting their website to the alt-right’s anti-Semitic elements by pointing to Jewish writers on their staff and embrace for far-right Israeli politics, the comment section analysis shows they don’t have a zero tolerance policy for anti-Semitic views. Of course, this isn’t surprising since Bannon is a well-known anti-Semite. His ex-wife claimed he didn’t want their daughters attending a private girls’ school in Los Angeles because he didn’t want them going to attending a school with Jews. According to her from court documents, “He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’.” Bannon has denied these allegations. Nevertheless, anti-Semitic or not, far right extremists like what they see on there. A focus on “globalist elites” was a traditional anti-Semitic dog whistle used by the radical right to a core appeal embraced by American and European right-wing populists. And it’s been a “rolling narrative” Breitbart extensively covers. One of its London pieces attacked Washington Post writer Anne Applebaum referring to her as a “Polish, Jewish, American elitist” with “global media contacts.” It was roundly criticized as being anti-Semitic. Breitbart’s similar inflammatory coverage of the migrant crisis and terrorism resonates with the hard right which includes anti-Semitic fellow travelers. And by 2016, the phrase “Jewish” on the Breitbart comments section had morphed into an epithet used in similar contexts as “socialist” or “commie.”

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Though there are female reporters working for Breitbart, you still see a lot of these very sexist headlines on the site. This one about feminism is among many examples. Not to mention, Steve Bannon’s ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence.

Though right-wing media has a very terrible reputation for sexism, Breitbart has no shortage of deeply misogynistic stories and headlines with feminists regularly targeted. On a story about online harassment, Breitbart published a piece titled, “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off” which read, “Women are — and you won’t hear this anywhere else — screwing up the internet for men by invading every space we have online and ruining it with attention-seeking and a needy, demanding, touchy-feely form of modern feminism that quickly comes into conflict with men’s natural tendency to be boisterous, confrontational and delightfully autistic. Feminism never brings men and women together in equality. It drives the sexes apart through acrimony, constant suspicion and antagonism like ‘teach men not to rape’ and illogical generalities and conspiracy theories like the ‘patriarchy’.” Though to be fair, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos has gained notoriety for Gamergate. Nevertheless, this is typical garbage that’s basically blaming telling women to put up or shut up. Not to mention, blaming feminism for men’s conduct toward women that receive little to no consequences which is appalling. We should also account that Bannon’s ex-wife brought charges of domestic violence against him in 1996 as well as referred to feminists as “a bunch of dykes of the 7 Sisters schools.” Or how about birth control? In that case, a 2015 Breitbart article stated that “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” which stated that, “your birth control injection will add on pounds that will prevent the injection you really want — of man meat.” On women in tech: “There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews.” Other headlines consist of, “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?,” “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?,” “Lesbian bridezillas bully bridal shop owner over religious beliefs,” and “Teenage boys with tits: Here’s my problem with Ghostbusters.” LGBT people, the disabled, the overweight, and pretty much anyone who disagrees with Breitbart’s agenda are often targets as well.

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Milo Yiannopoulos is perhaps one of the most famous figures at Breitbart and the alt-right. He’s also known to incite mass trolling attacks on Twitter that he’s been suspended numerous times on there as well as eventually and permanently banned. Yet, for awhile, he seemed to be riding high until he started defending pedophiles.

However, Breitbart’s most disturbing piece to date was its Alt-Right primer published in March 2016. The piece ignores Alt-Right founders Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, and others’ racist views and referred to them as the movement’s “intellectuals.” Though they do note that these men have been accused of racism. It’s a striking example of how the website has moved over since 2015 and how Breitbart has become the alt-right’s platform. But even to this day, Breitbart’s owners continue to deny their website has any connection to the Alt-Right or has ever supported racist or white supremacist views. Yet, you wouldn’t know from some of their journalists’ Twitter pages who support the Alt-Right’s core tenets. The most notable was former tech editor and star writer Milo Yiannopoulos who was permanently banned from Twitter for his online abuse of Leslie Jones and others. Though to be fair, this is a guy whose claim to fame was leading a massive troll war over misogyny in the video game world called Gamergate. And he was called by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “the person who propelled the alt-right movement into the mainstream.” When asked on how he, Breitbart, and other sites mobilized the alt-right community, Yiannopoloulos replied, “I don’t pander to anyone. I just gave the alt-right a fair hearing. That was considered heretical by the virtue-signaling leftist media, so now they call me a white nationalist and anti-Semite, despite the fact that I’m a gay Jew with a black boyfriend. To the American media, anyone who is not a far-left social justice activist is a racist and sexist. This has had a predictable consequence: no one cares about their name-calling and hysteria anymore.” He’s basically denying that the alt-right is nothing like the white nationalist extremism it certainly is. That’s just the leftist media talking. However, he then added, “Trump’s voters, and I would wager in fact most of America, are repulsed by the Lena Dunham, Black Lives Matter, third-wave feminist, communist, ‘kill all white men’ politics of the progressive left. Which is in large part why this election went the way it did. Some of us saw it coming a while ago. Most didn’t.” This is basically what you’d expect from Yiannopoulos. Yet, it’s disturbing to even imagine what kind of people would attend his campus talks during his “Dangerous Faggot” tour which coincided with a rise of hate crimes around the country following Trump’s victory. But tickets usually sold out fast though his events included security as well as angry protests. And for awhile, his star seemed on the rise since he signed a $250,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster as well as an invitation to speak at CPAC. But he would later suffer a massive fall from grace after his pedophilia comments and be forced to resign from Breitbart as well as have his deals with Simon and Schuster and CPAC cancelled.

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Now I know this Breitbart headline is certainly fake news since Trump is a sexist and racist sociopathic demagogue. Still, Breitbart has supported his candidacy since the beginning which has helped the site make inroads in the mainstream. Nevertheless, having Bannon in the White House gives the conservative website power and opportunities they never had before. And a premiere media outlet for white supremacists, alt-righters, and Neo-Nazis, it’s very troubling.

What’s also disconcerting is Breitbart’s unabashed support for Donald Trump whose campaign helped mobilize and mainstream racist activists online which had internal ramifications for the site. In March 2016, then Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski assaulted Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and site published an article questioning Fields’ account. Editor Ben Shapiro and a number of journalists including Fields quit as the New York Times said that, “Breitbart’s unabashed embrace of Mr. Trump, particularly at the expense of its own reporter, struck them as a betrayal of its mission.” Former employees accused Bannon of having, “turned a website founded on anti-authoritarian grounds into a de facto propaganda outlet for Mr. Trump.” However, we should know that Breitbart’s support for Trump was known since August 2015 when Buzzfeed reported that several anonymous staffers claimed he had paid for favorable coverage on the site, which management denied. Though Newsweek and The Washington Post have both reported that owners Robert and Rebekah Mercer have deep ties to Trump and were among his earliest and most generous backers as well as recommended Bannon to him. Nevertheless, the partnership was mutually beneficial. Trump would secure the support of Breitbart’s core readership as among his most steadfast supporters. Breitbart’s traffic would more than double while Trump would also appear on Steve Bannon’s Sirius XM radio show as well as cite Breitbart on his website more than any other source. As the Trump campaign’s propaganda machine, Breitbart provided positive coverage for him. They regularly featured opinion pieces by Trump supporter Ann Coulter. They covered his rallies and rarely questioned his policy proposals. They even published some articles bolstering Trump’s claims that independent fact-checkers rated as false. And in July 2016, Trump appointed Bannon to run his presidential campaign which eventually earned him a place in his administration. Having Trump and Bannon in the White House only legitimizes Breitbart’s agenda as well as gives them a direct conduit of power they’ve never had before. Inside the Trump administration, Breitbart is likely to be the most read publications inside the White House over the next 4 years, giving it even more legitimacy and policy. And Breitbart would continue publishing articles espousing the Trump White House views, making it a powerful messaging tool to influence conservatives who voted for him.

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Stephen Bannon may not be working at Breitbart. But his legacy there still remains. But to give this media arm of the alt-right any legitimacy whatsoever is deeply troubling since it’s a site peddling disinformation as well as caters to right-wing extremists. We can’t have that kind of media in the White House.

While Bannon may no longer be at Breitbart, his legacy remains. We must not forget that Bannon’s editorial vision has demonstrably mobilized a grassroots fighting for a white ethnostate and in many cases, another Holocaust. After all, if they consist of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, it’s not surprising. And longstanding far right leaders haven’t ignored Breitbart’s ascension made possible by the Trump campaign who’ve reacted with the shock at how their editorial bent resembles their own. We should understand that these extremists’ hate is real and thriving on Breitbart, which has helped expand their influence on the American political right. And for many their propensity to inflict terror on Americans is a real threat. As a media organization, Breitbart has absolutely no journalistic integrity and its influence in the mainstream press during the 2016 Election was an extremely negative one styles itself as a website catering to the worst in American conservatism. Having Trump appoint Bannon to his administration signals that white supremacists are represented at his White House. I have already written a post on the alt-right and highlighted how their influence might lead to more domestic terror attacks. And the fact the Trump administration has a terror policy focused solely on Islam sends a clear signal that would only embolden these radical right-wing degenerates. Though Breitbart has failed to gain legitimacy in Washington, Trump still uses it as a news source as it becomes the central arbiter in the American conservative media ecosystem and therefore, giving it some degree of mainstream legitimacy. And as long as both things are true, then Breitbart has every opportunity to rear its ugly head and permeate its toxic influence into White House policy.

Hands Off My PBS and NPR: Why We Still Need Public Broadcasting

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Established by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has ensured universal access to non-commercial, high quality content, and telecommunications services. And does so by distributing more than 70% of its funding to more than 1,300 locally owned public radio and television stations along with the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. The CPB is part of our nation’s commitment to ensuring culture, learning, and the arts are available to all Americans.

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This cartoon from the Indianapolis Star shows Trump slashing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from the federal budget. And here we see horrified Sesame Street muppets look on.

This March, President Cheetohead unveiled his federal budget plan proposing to ax the federal funding from several government programs, including the CPB. The reason? According to Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” His justification to cut public broadcasting in order to increase defense spending by $54 billion makes absolutely no sense. The CPB receives about an annual $485 million from the federal government, consisting of about .00006% of the federal budget. By contrast, annual US defense spending is about $500-$600 billion, consisting of half the federal budget at least (estimated). Yet, Mulvaney also has the audacity and the stupidity to state that we can’t ask a West Virginia coal miner or a Detroit single mom whether we can keep funding public broadcasting programs. It’s like he thinks that public broadcasting plays no role in ordinary Americans’ day to day lives. Does he have any idea parents and children are a key demographic for shows like Sesame Street? Or that PBS Kids is the only educational resource for 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents can’t afford sending them to preschool? And that local public stations may be the only source of free local news and programming in many rural areas? Or when West Virginia’s governor proposed cutting state funding to its public media from its budget, only to change his mind afterwards? Besides, it only costs the average American $1.35 each year for it. People have paid more for overdue library books for God’s sake. And given PBS and NPR’s penchant to air quality program that have been on for years, I consider it an investment well spent. Thus, I think asking single moms and coal miners to pay for public broadcasting is fairly reasonable. Of course, I may be a little biased since I watch PBS on a regular basis because I’d rather watch intellectually stimulating shows than meaningless crap. And I will defend PBS and NPR with my life. But don’t take my word for it since 73% of all Americans oppose cutting federal funding for the CPB including 83% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans.

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On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would testify before a US Senate committee to defend funding for public broadcasting. His words about how his show benefits young kids still echoes today. Since he’s from Latrobe and his show was based in WQED Pittsburgh, he holds a special place in my area as a local legend.

Critics of public broadcasting often view NPR as a liberal media hotbed and PBS as an obsolete relic of a bygone age. Republicans in particular, don’t think that the federal government should support public broadcasting even if it’s funding represents a miniscule fraction of the federal budget. They believe that we should let the market decide whether it wants science, arts, or music. Besides, if you want quality educational and cultural programming, then cable should be quite sufficient since you have whole channels devoted to education and culture. Or so they say. However, Americans should view their public broadcasting system as a national treasure since it provides a vital public service for local communities as well as the nation. As a media outlet, public broadcasting provides educational and high quality programming for all Americans. Without it, the United States would be a far worse off place. So much that disgraced four-star general Stanley McChrystal called cutting public media for increased military spending, “a false choice.” Nevertheless, American taxpayers pay only a small investment in public broadcasting that pays out big dividends in a way that’s indispensable to society. And as McChrystal said, it should be pitted against the spending more in improving our military. Not to mention, many viewers would miss out on all the intellectual and educational richness public media has to offer. Thus, if Trump should kill public broadcasting, America loses. Because public broadcasting is part of what makes America great. To eliminate federal funding for the CPB would be catastrophic to public broadcasting, especially where local stations rely on CPB funds. And I give you the following reasons why federal funding for PBS and NPR is worth protecting.

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A lot of these educational cable networks may have started off with high quality programming. But they later degenerated into airing crap in order to appeal to a larger 18-34 audience and sponsors. As you can see from these charts, it tells you what The Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel air nowadays.

Most attempts at providing quality educational and cultural programming to cable television have failed.– Out of all the cable stations providing quality educational and cultural programming, only Turner Classic Movies and the Smithsonian Channel continue to do so 24/7. Other channels like National Geographic and the Weather Channel can also have educational content. But they can also feature a lot of crap. Nevertheless, there was a time when cable had a real chance of replacing PBS, but that was back in the early days. We should remember that the Discovery Channel, A&E, The History Channel, and TLC were created to provide such programming. A&E stood for Arts and Entertainment as well as used to show content relating to arts, dance, theater, history, literature, and nature. TLC once stood for The Learning Channel which used to feature science and nature documentaries and was co-owned by NASA. The Discovery Channel also featured science programming while the History Channel broadcasted documentaries on history. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, conservatives could use networks like TLC, A&E, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel, to argue that we don’t need PBS anymore. Nowadays, try to argue that point and all you get is a room full of obnoxious laughter. Today you will find that A&E is best known for airing Duck Dynasty, Dog, the Bounty Hunter, and Love Prison. TLC’s programming centers around trashy reality shows exploiting toddler beauty pageants, obese people, people who need therapy, and families who don’t mind putting children in the spotlight. The Discovery Channel may still have Shark Week but they feature reality shows like Amish Mafia and Naked and Afraid. As for the History Channel, well, basically they’ve devoted timeslots to reality shows as well as programming featuring pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. PBS, meanwhile, still shows the same type of programming throughout its existence at the same quality. So why did these cable networks departed so far from their original programming concepts while PBS didn’t? Mostly because these cable networks are for-profit businesses that exist to make money. Many times a cable channel’s management might add shows they feel that a larger audience wants to see, leading to additional profits. And by producing irrelevant or low-quality programming, they can increase their ratings to a target audience, increase viewership, and increase revenues. This is a process known as Network Decay or Channel Drift. The degree of channel drift may vary with some nonconforming programming retaining some degree of association with the channel’s original purpose like Pawn Stars on the History Channel. Yet, other programming may have no association whatsoever such as whatever you see on TLC. PBS, by contrast, primarily exists to provide programming of social benefit to their viewers that may not be commercially viable to the mass market like public affairs shows, documentaries, and educational shows. Many have been on the air for years, if not decades. In fact, one of the principles of public broadcasting is to provide coverage for interests for which there are missing or small markets. Quality educational and cultural programming would usually fit the bill. PBS’s non-profit status allows them to do so while not being obligated to appeal to the lowest common denominator, advertisers, or profits. Furthermore, PBS relies on government and private funding sources because it strives for the kind of independence in order to fulfill its educational and cultural mission to the public.

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In 2013, WNET New York released a series of ads of fake reality shows both on posters and in commercials. This was at a time when reality shows were very popular. Nevertheless, Bayou Eskimos is probably as realistic as Duck Dynasty or Amish Mafia. But since a lot of cable networks many thought would replace PBS now have hours of reality shows, I think it shows a lot about our culture.

Just because a TV show is commercially viable, doesn’t mean it’s good.– As much as I hate reality shows, I have to concede that networks find them particularly attractive. They’re relatively cheap to produce than a scripted series as well as is often said to be more authentic and engaging to viewers. Reality shows were very popular among audiences during my adolescence with the primary demographic being teenagers and young adults. Sponsors like them since they provide an opportunity for product placement, giving more time to market their products. However, reality shows aren’t quality entertainment as well as be rather exploitative and offensive regardless of popularity. Nor do they reflect “reality” as we know it since such shows use a lot of behind the scenes trickery. Yet, popular reality shows seldom ever get cancelled. Nevertheless, we need to understand that popularity among the masses doesn’t translate into quality. As a writer who enjoys old movies, I understand this concept incredibly well. Not every bestseller becomes a literary classic. And not every box office hit will be held as a cinematic masterpiece. Trash culture has always existed whether it be porn, penny dreadfuls, pulp novels, exploitation films, B-movies, and reality shows. Each generation has its own form of mindless entertainment. Nevertheless, the fact channels like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel switched from their educational programming to sleazy entertainment demonstrates how some good quality shows aren’t always commercially viable. Many of the shows PBS airs like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, NOVA, Nature, and others wouldn’t have a chance on other channels. Nor would they be able to otherwise compete what’s available on other channels if it weren’t for PBS. For example, when Fred Rogers addressed the US Senate in 1969, he’d say that he knew his haircut decision could excite kids once he was in front of them. But he also knew it would be hard to compete for their attention as on-screen violence and special effects became ever more present outside public media. He also talked about how watching two men working through their emotions is much more important, relevant, and dramatic than guns firing. Cable channels may air marketable content but it doesn’t mean such shows are good.

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While the federal government provides some of the CPB’s funding, most of it comes from private along with state and local government sources. And it is because public broadcasting receives money from a variety of public and private sources that it’s able to air quality programming and exist as an independent non-profit entity.

Public broadcasting is not beholden to anyone but its mission and its viewership.– While public broadcasters may receive some funding from state and local governments, most financial support comes from underwriting from foundations and businesses ranging from small shops to corporations, along with audience contributions via pledge drives. They may rely on advertisers, but not to the same degree as commercial broadcasters or at all. Nor are they owned or operated by the government either. Rather many owned by non-profit groups affiliated with a local school district, a college, a non-profit organization, or by state or local government agencies. Stations receiving CPB funds must meet certain requirements such as the maintenance or provision of open meetings, open financial records, a community advisory board, equal employment opportunity, and lists of donors and political activities. And most of PBS’s national programming is produced by member stations, particularly WPGH Boston, WNET New York, and WETA Washington providing most of them. Though my local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh produced the iconic Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. NPR also broadcasts content from national providers like Public Radio International or American Public Radio. Yet, they also can air from other stations as well. For instance, the celebrated “Car Talk” was produced by WBUR-FM Boston while Minnesota Public Radio brings “A Prairie Home Companion.” Nevertheless, PBS is a great station for those who would rather teach lessons and enrich minds than make money. As long as it’s quality programming benefitting the public, PBS doesn’t care much about ratings as it does about access and viewers like you.

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Though kid shows exist on commercial networks, they often don’t alleviate parents’ and teachers’ worries since they may show violence, teach terrible lessons, and advertise junk food. PBS shows like Sesame Street have a great reputation since they aim to put kids’ interests first. And the fact parents and young children enjoy this show so much over the years has made it one of the most beloved on TV.

What’s good for the market isn’t always what people want.– Despite what public media opponents may say, there is a demand for educational and cultural programming no matter how small that may be. While networks like A&E, TLC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel weren’t as commercially viable while airing such programs, they did have an audience. When they embarked on the long road through network decay, that audience abandoned them. Nevertheless, a classic example of this is in children’s programming. Though commercial networks often air kid shows as well, parents and teachers have often expressed concern on what children watch on them. The fact cartoons can depict violence while sponsors air ads possibly promoting unhealthy eating habits doesn’t help. But above all parents and teachers worry whether kids are learning the right lessons from the stuff they watch. By contrast, PBS’s educational mission and commercial free programming earns a lot of trust from parents and teachers in regards to children’s TV in preparing them for lifelong learning. Not to mention, public broadcasting often puts kids’ best interests first. Of course, most of their kids’ programming aims for young children. But in a way it makes sense, since early childhood is a very vulnerable age where fostering a lifelong love of learning is vital. And a lot of them aren’t yet in school. Besides, most of PBS’s adult shows are usually appropriate for children anyway. Schools frequently show a lot of PBS documentaries and the network’s website often features lesson plans to go with them. After all, airing shows like Nova, Nature, and the occasional Ken Burns documentary should inspire kids to value learning and make a difference. PBS and NPR also provide news coverage from local events to international affairs and with as little bias as possible. Public radio stations even feature music like jazz, classical, and indie music you might not find on other radio channels. We should also account that PBS currently ranks #6 among all broadcast and cable networks for primetime household ratings, is watched by 82% of American households, and a monthly audience of over 95 million.

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This is a diagram of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s operating budget from 2014. As you can see most of it goes to supporting local TV and radio stations. Many of these are in impoverished rural areas and serve as the only source for local news and other services.

Local NPR and PBS affiliates put local audiences first.– As of 2015, PBS maintains current memberships of 354 stations across encompassing 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 US possessions. This gives PBS the distinction as the only TV broadcaster in the United States, commercial or non-commercial with station partners in every US state. By contrast, none of the 5 major commercial broadcast networks has affiliates in certain states where PBS has members with the most significant example being New Jersey. PBS’s estimated reach is 93.74% of all US households (or 292,926,047 Americans with at least one set). Along with national programming like Nova, Nature, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow, local PBS stations also air a lot of locally produced content they probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. My local PBS station WQED Pittsburgh has aired locally produced documentaries, cooking shows, and film shorts. WQED has also hosted local forums on local issues as well as debates in important statewide election races. In rural areas, local PBS stations serve an important role in their communities that larger state and even national outlets can’t replace. For these residents, their PBS station might be the only place to see their county fair or their neighbors talking about their WWII service. They may also support local initiatives regarding education, adult literacy, and workplace development. In some areas, their public broadcast station might be the only source of news, entertainment, and emergency broadcast service available. And a lot of their poorer residents can’t even afford cable. Since many of these areas don’t have wealthy members like Pittsburgh’s WQED and WESA do, their rural stations rely on government funding for support. Even in the most conservative areas of the country, people usually have high esteem for their public broadcast stations which they might see as a neighbor or friend. And these stations often benefit their communities tremendously.

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From its debut in 1975, the PBS NewsHour has earned a reputation for excellence in its in-depth coverage on issues and current events. And it’s one of PBS most popular shows as one of the closest to a truly objective news source on the media landscape.

More people trust PBS and NPR than most government and media institutions. – In a nation where public trust in American institutions are on the decline such as the government and the media, PBS and NPR have consistently ranked as among the most trusted. Sure your local PBS and NPR stations won’t cover local sports, weather, and crime, but their commitment to viewers, listeners, and their mission has considerably helped their reputation. Not to mention, both PBS and NPR are among the only media outlets to have high public trust among Americans across all demographics as well as the political spectrum. Though both PBS and NPR have been criticized for showing liberal bias, most can at least name something they like about either. For instance, whenever conservatives criticize PBS and NPR, it usually has more with their national news content than anything. Though it’s not all they do. And there are plenty of conservatives who might think NPR is liberal but would certainly riot if you did anything to their public radio station. Parents and teachers trust PBS have consistently rated PBS as the #1 educational media brand for kids under 18 in the nation for very good reason. Hell, the American Academy of Pediatrics pointed to PBS Kids as a leading resource for educational programming. After all, PBS Kids puts greater emphasis on quality over quantity. As for news, PBS has highly acclaimed programs like the News Hour and Frontline. NPR is currently the most trusted news source in the nation with an audience that doesn’t just consist of white college educated liberals. Furthermore, PBS and NPR have been the only media outlets reporting on climate change during the 2016 election. PBS’s news programming has won 14 News and Documentary Emmys in 2016 which is more than any other organization. And Frontline took 7, which is more than any other individual series.

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PBS plays an especially critical role in educating young children, particularly those in low-income families unable to afford preschool. Without it, there would be no way for many children to prepare for kindergarten.

PBS is highly committed educating all children, especially those most at risk. – As a public station, PBS strives to make sure all Americans have access to free, evidence-based, high quality, and educational programming. Nowhere is their mission more important than in their kid shows that they added the PBS Kids channel available for everyone. As a result, PBS Kids reaches more young children and more kids from low-income families than any other children’s TV network. On air, PBS Kids attracts higher proportions of minority and low-income homes. Whereas more than 2/3 of children from 2-8 watch PBS. Not only that, but PBS also provides over 120,000 Pre-K-12 digital resources along with more than 1.8 million users with registered access to PBS Learning Media. Recent studies confirm that 9 out of 10 parents use PBS Kids resources for school preparedness while three-quarters say their kid engages in more positive behavior and higher critical thinking skills after engaging with the network. PBS Kids programming provides a vital service in school readiness to more than half of America’s 3-4 year-olds who don’t have the opportunity to attend preschool. For these children, PBS Kids is the only source of educational media content supporting school readiness which could boost their long-term educational opportunities. Such PBS Kids content supports a whole child ecosystem addressing core needs such as social-emotional learning, math, engineering, literacy, and science. And early childhood education is absolutely crucial in life that PBS understands. For older children, PBS and member stations have partnered for the “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” initiative. This program brings public media together with key community stakeholders to help students stay on the path to on-time high school graduation and future success. This partnership consist of PBS stations in over 30 states partnered with more than 1,400 community leaders, local organizations, and schools to help students succeed from Pre-K to high school graduation and beyond. Not to mention, PBS Learning Media includes content from award winning shows like Nova, Nature, American Experience, and Frontline that educators and parents could access at any time. PBS’s commitment to educating children of all ages has made the network absolutely essential.

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Cutting funding for PBS and NPR won’t free up a lot of money for military spending. But a United States without public broadcasting wouldn’t be a nice place to live. PBS and NPR have informed, educated, and inspired people as well s made our nation smarter, stronger, and safer. There are so many stories from viewers on how public media has made a positive impact in their lives. The fact Trump and his swamp cronies are willing to eliminate the CPB really illustrates how he values American greatness and values. Like not at all.

Public broadcasting creates makes Americans better citizens. – Though providing early childhood education and molding young children to be intellectually curious, empathetic, and prepared for school and life, it’s only one of the ways PBS enriches people’s lives. Unlike commercial TV stations, PBS treats its viewers as citizens instead of simply consumers as well as promote education, public trust in institutions, and civil discourse. Public broadcasting makes our country smarter, stronger, and safer. PBS and NPR both can inform, educate, and inspire people. And they both push us into elevating us and our sights. They both also encourage us to think and understand as well as bring us together. Today trust among Americans and for many national institutions is at its lowest in generations. Stereotyping, prejudice, and anti-intellectualism have proliferated that the US has elected a narcissistic sociopath as president who thinks little of America and embodies the country at its worst. Since PBS is ranked #1 in public trust, it can help build connections between different groups of people as well as promote a civil society. And we should note that most Americans oppose cutting federal funding for public television. Still, if Congress and Trump eliminate CPB funding, America would be a much more inhospitable place since PBS and NPR have played an essential role in millions of Americans’ everyday lives as well as benefited our country in so many ways. Even Fred Rogers realized this back in 1969 that he testified before Congress to defend PBS funding when Nixon wanted to cut it. More than ever we need a media outlets that value people over profits as well as enrich our lives. $1.35 a year is a small price to pay. Besides, the fact Trump is willing to cut PBS and NPR funding means he doesn’t value what’s great about America.

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Exclusive Magazine Cover Disasters Through the Ages

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In a media landscape nowadays, you’d think there’s a magazine for everything. They also come in many forms depending on content. Some may focus on important news stories and analysis like Time and Newsweek. Some may feature interesting educational content from around the world like National Geographic or Smithsonian. Some may pertain to celebrity gossip, fashion, and household tips like the mainstream magazines you see on the racks in a grocery store. Nevertheless, they have loomed large in our pop culture landscape for a long time. After all, most of those vintage ads you’ve probably seen in my vintage blog posts came from magazines. Yet, each magazine issue comes with a cover that advertises what’s inside. For many issues, such images have become rather iconic and well known. Yet, there are also covers that cause considerable controversy. In this post, I’ll feature a treasure trove of magazine covers that will make you scratch your head. Some of these contain photoshop fails (which make people look very unflattering). Some pertain to images that might be unintentionally funny. Some may contain a lot of formatting mistakes. You name it. So enjoy these at your peril.

  1. In Popular Science, learn how to build your own family foxhole.
Apparently, the folks at Popular Science had no idea that a lot of people had basements in their homes in the 1950s. Or that an underground shelter is simply not an option for people in some areas like Florida.

Apparently, the folks at Popular Science had no idea that a lot of people had basements in their homes in the 1950s. Or that an underground shelter is simply not an option for people in some areas like Florida.

2. Presenting our current issue of Rugged Men: the masochist issue.

Because nothing makes a man more rugged than having 2 sexy blondes tie his hands and feet, hoist him up without his shirt on, and whip him senseless. Think about it as Fifty Shades of Grey om reverse.

Because nothing makes a man more rugged than having 2 sexy blondes tie his hands and feet, hoist him up without his shirt on, and whip him senseless. Think about it as Fifty Shades of Grey om reverse.

3. On Man’s Life, we will feature a man attacked by a swarm of bloodthirsty bats.

No, most bats don't viciously attack humans without probable cause. Sure they may spread disease from time to time. But the guy never should've entered the bat cave, at least without a shirt on.

No, most bats don’t viciously attack humans without probable cause. Sure they may spread disease from time to time. But the guy never should’ve entered the bat cave, at least without a shirt on.

4. Today in Man’s Life, beware of the killer turtles.

Sure turtles might have a vicious side. But this cover just seems too hard to take seriously.

Sure turtles might have a vicious side. But this cover just seems too hard to take seriously. I mean the guy’s trying to ward off attacking turtles for God’s sake.

5. On this issue of time, the Beatles.

So why did Time decide to go with freakish Beatles puppets? Couldn't they just put a photo of the Fab Four and leave it at that?

So why did Time decide to go with freakish Beatles puppets? Couldn’t they just put a photo of the Fab Four and leave it at that?

6. In Electrical Experimenter, we introduce to you the Teleport Phone.

Sure they may not have a phone keypad. But they can certainly Skype.

Sure they may not have a phone keypad. But they can certainly Skype.

7. On this issue of Good Housekeeping we sit down with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Or an evil robot of Michelle Obama that has killed her and taken her place. Yes, this is terrible photoshop indeed.

Or an evil robot of Michelle Obama that has killed her and taken her place. Yes, this is terrible photoshop indeed.

8. This issue of Time features the magic of virtual reality.

So is this guy really at the beach experiencing a different virtual reality. Or is that beach a virtual reality? I can't tell.

So is this guy really at the beach experiencing a different virtual reality. Or is that beach a virtual reality? I can’t tell.

9. Time Magazine calls Chris Christie The Boss.

This issue appeared in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. However, the mob boss style photo treatment is actually quite fitting for the shady New Jersey governor who caused a massive traffic jam out of spite.

This issue appeared in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. However, the mob boss style photo treatment is actually quite fitting for the shady New Jersey governor who caused a massive traffic jam out of spite.

10. In Man’s Life, our top story is vicious killer monkeys.

Yes, monkeys can be quite vicious creatures. But this is utterly ridiculous to take seriously. Hope that guy's knife comes in handy.

Yes, monkeys can be quite vicious creatures. But this is utterly ridiculous to take seriously. Hope that guy’s knife comes in handy.

11. In this issue of Weird Tales, we feature a living female buddha.

However, I find it hard to believe that a female buddha would be a redheaded white girl who's dressed like she's from a Las Vegas strip club. But that's just me.

However, I find it hard to believe that a female buddha would be a redheaded white girl who’s dressed like she’s from a Las Vegas strip club. But that’s just me.

12. This issue of Time features hockey.

Hey, I didn't know that Jason Voorhees played hockey before he resorted to killing teenagers. Why did nobody tell us about it?

Hey, I didn’t know that Jason Voorhees played hockey before he resorted to killing teenagers. Why did nobody tell us about it?

13. No, I don’t think this is a magazine about prostitution.

It's actually titled Where magazine. But the fact the woman covers part of the "e" seems to suggest otherwise.

It’s actually titled Where magazine. But the fact the woman covers part of the “e” seems to suggest otherwise.

14. I’m sure all of you remember Time’s infamous O.J. Simpson cover.

No, O.J. isn't that black. But don't tell the people of Time. And yes, I do believe he did it since he's had a record of abuse.

No, O.J. isn’t that black. But don’t tell the people of Time. And yes, I do believe he did it since he’s had a record of abuse.

15. Sometimes in magazine cover design, placement is everything.

This is called, "Parents" magazine. However, the mother's head on the "a" and the green blurb on the "t" makes sound something completely different.

This is called, “Parents” magazine. However, the mother’s head on the “a” and the green blurb on the “t” makes sound something completely different.

16. When doing a cover story on a terrorist suspect, don’t slap photo on the cover that makes him look like a teen rock star.

This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who's the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber. The people of Boston weren't happy about this cover at all.

This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who’s the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber. The people of Boston weren’t happy about this cover at all.

17. Time Magazine informs us that we’re all puppets controlled by some external puppetmeister.

Well, this is about sociobiology. But the picture seems to suggest something even more sinister. Like we're all slaves to something outside ourselves.

Well, this is about sociobiology. But the picture seems to suggest something even more sinister. Like we’re all slaves to something outside ourselves.

18. This issue of The Economist discusses the trouble with mergers.

So what the hell does camel sex have to do with mergers? Seriously, that makes no sense whatsoever. And it makes camel parents angry.

So what the hell does camel sex have to do with mergers? Seriously, that makes no sense whatsoever. And it makes camel parents angry.

19. In this issue of Spy, it’s obvious that O.J. Simpson is guilty.

If Spy thinks he's guilty, then why do they have him dressed up as George Washington? It's just so absurd. Then again, maybe that's the point.

If Spy thinks he’s guilty, then why do they have him dressed up as George Washington? It’s just so absurd. Then again, maybe that’s the point.

20. In this issue of Time: Are Men Really that Bad?

So basically Time implies that men are pigs. Yet, some sure can dress.

So basically Time implies that men are pigs. Yet, some sure can dress.

21. Today’s special issue of Bloomberg is dedicated to tax evaders.

Actually they're talking about how rich people avoid paying taxes like tax shelters and taking advantage of loopholes. I'm sure it'll give some wealthy people ideas.

Actually they’re talking about how rich people avoid paying taxes like tax shelters and taking advantage of loopholes. I’m sure it’ll give some wealthy people ideas.

22. We devote this issue of This is Harrison County to suppositories.

Actually Butt Drugs is a name of a drugstore there. Yet, the name is quite unfortunate so I include this cover.

Actually Butt Drugs is a name of a drugstore there. Yet, the name is quite unfortunate so I include this cover.

23. In Men magazine, Attack of the Giant Otter.

Yes, the giant otter springs to attack some guy in his tent during the night. And that otter is about to have a lamp smashed at it.

Yes, the giant otter springs to attack some guy in his tent during the night. And that otter is about to have a lamp smashed at it.

24. This week in Esquire, the Passion of Muhammad Ali.

Note that they're depicting Muhammad Ali like Saint Sebastian who had arrows shot into him. And that it's not real at all. But it's surely in poor taste.

Note that they’re depicting Muhammad Ali like Saint Sebastian who had arrows shot into him. And that it’s not real at all. But it’s surely in poor taste.

25. This week in Esquire, Andy Warhol is sucked into a whirlpool of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

Let's hope he comes back from the froth of saltiness. Yes, these old magazine covers can be surreal.

Let’s hope he comes back from the froth of saltiness. Yes, these old magazine covers can be surreal.

26. For Men’s Fitness, we sit down with tennis star Andy Roddick.

I don't know about you. But do you get the impression that one of Andy's arms is bigger than the other. Or is it just me?

I don’t know about you. But do you get the impression that one of Andy’s arms is bigger than the other. Or is it just me?

27. This week’s issue of Life magazine discusses the Generation Gap.

Uh, having people in blue man's glasses doesn't seem to help their case. In fact, makes you wonder if the photo shopper was on acid.

Uh, having people in blue man’s glasses doesn’t seem to help their case. In fact, makes you wonder if the photo shopper was on acid.

28. This week’s issue of Life magazine features an album of Christmas carols.

There's something not right about that golden hair child. Hope you don't find this little moppet in your home during the night.

There’s something not right about that golden hair child. Hope you don’t find this little moppet in your home during the night.

29. In this week’s issue of Life, we feature the scary cloaked masked lady.

Yes, she kind of seems a bit creepy to me. I don't think her soulless eyes contain anything lively for years.

Yes, she kind of seems a bit creepy to me. I don’t think her soulless eyes contain anything lively for years.

30. I guess this is the girls with guns issue of Black Mask.

I hear this Ammo Amy is perhaps the NRA's dream girl. I mean look at all the guns she carries. That's insane!

I hear this Ammo Amy is perhaps the NRA’s dream girl. I mean look at all the guns she carries. That’s insane!

31. In this issue of Male, man takes on giant lizard.

Wonder if this inspired the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk fights Gorn. Though the man wouldn't use a sword. And the black guy gets trampled.

Wonder if this inspired the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk fights Gorn. Though the man wouldn’t use a sword. And the black guy gets trampled.

32. In this issue of Stag, we learn how to protect ourselves against crabs.

Looks like STD prevention won't work in this case. Guess this might mean using a shovel.

Looks like STD prevention won’t work in this case. Perhaps a different kind of protection is needed like body armor.

33. According to True Men, even ripped guys are helpless when they’re attacked by hordes of flying squirrels.

Attacking squirrels? Really? Do you know how that's not scary? In fact, it's pretty ridiculous that you'll have to be nuts to imagine it.

Attacking squirrels? Really? Do you know how that’s not scary? In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous that you’ll have to be nuts to imagine it.

34. In Le Vie Parisienne, we feature a woman reading on the train.

Sorry, lady, but transparent top and a lifted skirt will draw attention. Even when you don't intend to.

Sorry, lady, but transparent top and a lifted skirt will draw attention. Even when you don’t intend to.

35. If you’re into shirtless covers, you’ll like this one from Africa’s Bowhunter.

This looks like a cheap cover with amateur photoshop for a cheap magazine. Also, the font isn't great either.

This looks like a cheap cover with amateur photoshop for a cheap magazine. Also, the font isn’t great either.

36. The New Republic features what’s rotten in Great Britain.

Yet, do we have to bring Princess Kate's dental health into this? Besides, those teeth aren't even real.

Yet, do we have to bring Princess Kate’s dental health into this? Besides, those teeth aren’t even real.

37. Presenting the Bill Clinton issue of Esquire.

No, Esquire, don't go with the Bill Clinton's legs spread. Seriously, that really doesn't help his scandal-prone reputation.

No, Esquire, don’t go with the Bill Clinton’s legs spread. Seriously, that really doesn’t help his scandal-prone reputation.

38. On Escape, man is driven to his death by gorgeous bare breasted Amazons.

Things really don't seem great for that guy about to be thrown into the volcano. Man, I don't think this magazine likes women.

Things really don’t seem great for that guy about to be thrown into the volcano. Man, I don’t think this magazine likes women.

39. In today’s Battle Cry, we feature a Nazi orgy.

Funny how the women are clad in their underwear while the guys are in full uniform. Doesn't seem to make much sense.

Funny how the women are clad in their underwear while the guys are in full uniform. Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

40. Looks like Der Spiegel doesn’t like Queen Elizabeth II.

Okay, they're really not telling the Queen to die even though it seems so. "Die" here simply means "the." So there's nothing to worry about.

Okay, they’re really not telling the Queen to die even though it seems so. “Die” here simply means “the.” So there’s nothing to worry about.

41. This issue of Marie Claire features the one and only Eva Mendes.

Thanks to photoshop, all her body parts are out of proportion. This especially goes for her head.

Thanks to photoshop, all her body parts are out of proportion. This especially goes for her head.

42. Tina Fey graces the cover of this month’s issue of In Style.

Tina Fey doesn't look like herself in this. Seriously, you have to wonder what's going on with her during the photo shoot.

Tina Fey doesn’t look like herself in this. Seriously, you have to wonder what’s going on with her during the photo shoot.

43. This issue of Elle, we sit down with Australian sensation Kyle Minogue.

And I have no idea what the hell happened to her leg. Surely, the other shoe should appear in this even with the knee bent.

And I have no idea what the hell happened to her leg. Surely, the other shoe should appear in this even with the knee bent.

44. In Russia, Vogue can be quite different.

This is especially true when you see a model's hand but no lower arm. Seriously, something's missing here.

This is especially true when you see a model’s hand but no lower arm. Seriously, something’s missing here.

45. This issue of Vogue we feature LeBron James and Gisele Bunchen.

Uh, no, Vogue. This has plenty of racist connotations that it's not even funny. Seriously, this is not cool.

Uh, no, Vogue. This has plenty of racist connotations that it’s not even funny. Seriously, this is not cool.

46. On W, we’re pleased to feature Demi Moore.

Unfortunately, they chopped off some of her hip in this. Also, it's likely they just pasted her head to a model's body, anyway.

Unfortunately, they chopped off some of her hip in this. Also, it’s likely they just pasted her head to a model’s body, anyway.

47. From Oops!, we have the pleasure to sit down with Taylor Swift.

Inside, we'll address the ongoing rumors of Ms. Swift being an evil space alien who uses her music to control minds. And whether she plans to assemble her own army to take over Earth.

Inside, we’ll address the ongoing rumors of Ms. Swift being an evil space alien who uses her music to control minds. And whether she plans to assemble her own army to take over Earth.

48. At Glamor, join us for an exclusive interview with Kristen Stewart.

Now we'll ask what the hell happened to her arm. Because we don't seem to see it in this photo.

Now we’ll ask what the hell happened to her arm. Because damn photoshop!

49. In Time, we discuss how Ted Cruz plans to make himself more likable.

He really doesn't look likable in this photo. More like a smug Lucius Malfoy type. Of course, it's hard to make a man like that likable at all.

He really doesn’t look likable in this photo. More like a smug Lucius Malfoy type. Of course, it’s hard to make a man like that likable at all.

50. How’s it hanging in Golf Week?

Why is there a noose in a golf magazine? It's a magazine about golf not executions.

Why is there a noose in a golf magazine? It’s a magazine about golf not executions.

51. In this issue of Esquire, the bearded lady finally shaves.

Okay, she probably doesn't have a beard. But the fact she's shaving her face is kind of disturbing for me. Not sure why.

Okay, she probably doesn’t have a beard. But the fact she’s shaving her face is kind of disturbing for me. Not sure why.

52. In this issue, Time takes you into the world of Cyberpunk.

So is this how they saw cyberculture in the early 1990s? Because they make it seem kind of shady.

So is this how they saw cyberculture in the early 1990s? Because they make it seem kind of shady.

53. This issue of Time talks about Cyber War.

From Time: "Two decades before drone strikes were a common part of military combat, 'Time' was busy warning us that a cyber war was coming." We should've listened.

From Mashable: “Two decades before drone strikes were a common part of military combat, ‘Time’ was busy warning us that a cyber war was coming.” We should’ve listened.

54. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos comes in a box.

From Mashable: "Most people named "Person of the Year" get stately cover photo shoots. But if you're Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the fact that Amazon is a website means you're relegated to the geek pile. And geeks don't get serious covers. They get their heads stuffed in boxes of packing peanuts and computer mice." Still, this is really creepy.

From Mashable: “Most people named “Person of the Year” get stately cover photo shoots. But if you’re Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the fact that Amazon is a website means you’re relegated to the geek pile. And geeks don’t get serious covers. They get their heads stuffed in boxes of packing peanuts and computer mice.” Still, this is really creepy.

55. This month, Rolling Stone features the Passion of Kanye West.

Now, Rolling Stone, you don't have to make your cover in a way that Kanye West sees himself. Seriously, we don't need to feed into his enormous ego.

Now, Rolling Stone, you don’t have to make your cover in a way that Kanye West sees himself. Seriously, we don’t need to feed into his enormous ego.

56. Gracing Todateen is teen sensation Justin Bieber.

Or him as a soulless mannequin who'll kill you in your dreams. You can take your pick.

Or him as a soulless mannequin who’ll kill you in your dreams. You can take your pick.

57. If you like Scandal, then you better get this Essence issue featuring Kerry Washington.

Her body seems totally out of proportion on this one. Maybe it's the outfit. Or maybe it's photoshop. I can't tell which.

Her body seems totally out of proportion on this one. Maybe it’s the outfit. Or maybe it’s photoshop. I can’t tell which.

58. You can’t miss Kerry Washington on this month’s cover of Lucky.

Here she discusses what it's like to be turned into a zombie. Before she eats the reporter who interviewed her.

Here she discusses what it’s like to be turned into a zombie. Before she eats the reporter who interviewed her.

59. This Glamour issue features the ultimate drama queen Kristen Stewart.

Kristen Stewart looks about as lifeless on this cover as she did in the Twilight movies. And I'm sure she's no drama queen by any stretch of the imagination.

Kristen Stewart looks about as lifeless on this cover as she did in the Twilight movies. And I’m sure she’s no drama queen by any stretch of the imagination.

60. In this issue of Life, we give you a sneak preview of the moon landing.

To be fair, this issue came out in 1962. But we all know Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn't wear garbage can spacesuits when they came out of the module.

To be fair, this issue came out in 1962. But we all know Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t wear garbage can spacesuits when they came out of the module.

61. In this issue of Wildlife we talk about lions.

But do we really need to use "pussies galore" in a wildlife magazine. I know you mean cats, but still. It's not great terminology.

But do we really need to use “pussies galore” in a wildlife magazine. I know you mean cats, but still. It’s not great terminology.

62. In Man’s Life magazine, we caution you to beware of attacking otters.

A guy being attacked by otters, that's crazy. I mean otters are playful and cuddly. So it's hard to take seriously.

A guy being attacked by otters, that’s crazy. I mean otters are playful and cuddly. So it’s hard to take seriously.

63. You never know what will be featured in Nails.

From Nails: "It takes a while to see that the cover model is jumping out of a nail. What’s the connection of the image with the cover story? Your guess is as good as ours."

From Nails: “It takes a while to see that the cover model is jumping out of a nail. What’s the connection of the image with the cover story? Your guess is as good as ours.”

64. On this issue of V, we feature Naomi Campbell.

Okay, another woman all tied up and having her mouth taped shut. Now this is very disturbing if you ask me.

Okay, another woman all tied up and having her mouth taped shut. Now this is very disturbing if you ask me.

65. This issue discusses the occult revival and Satan’s return.

Okay, that looks a bit scary. I bet readers will have freak out of this. Yeah, doesn't look good.

Okay, that looks a bit scary. I bet readers will have freak out of this. Yeah, doesn’t look good.

66. In this week’s cover from Shape Up, we cover bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Of course, don't get in shape Arnold's way at the time because he clearly used steroids. Also, there might be something rising in his pants.

Of course, don’t get in shape Arnold’s way at the time because he clearly used steroids. Also, there might be something rising in his pants.

67. In Men Today, check out how Nazis put underwear clad women in piranha pools.

Look, I know the Nazis were terrible people whose cruelty knew no bounds. But please, I'm sure none of them used piranha pools where they could put scantily clad women in. That's just ridiculous.

Look, I know the Nazis were terrible people whose cruelty knew no bounds. But please, I’m sure none of them used piranha pools where they could put scantily clad women in. That’s just ridiculous.

68. Jennifer Lopez rules in this issue of Rolling Stone.

I'm sorry but I don't think J.Lo fits into warrior princess mode. That just doesn't seem like her.

I’m sorry but I don’t think J.Lo fits into warrior princess mode. That just doesn’t seem like her.

69. Ricky Martin gets deep in Rolling Stone.

And here he is in a pool full of naked women. Uh, it's kind of established that Ricky Martin likes guys. Seriously, he's been out of the closet for a long time.

And here he is in a pool full of naked women. Uh, it’s kind of established that Ricky Martin likes guys. Seriously, he’s been out of the closet for a long time.

70. In Terror Tales, love goes mad.

Yes, she loves the Grim Reaper so much that she'll walk all over the River Styx with hands trying to grab her. And here Death just rows along.

Yes, she loves the Grim Reaper so much that she’ll walk all over the River Styx with hands trying to grab her. And here Death just rows along.

71. In this issue of Time, we go to Adolf Hitler playing his organ near his wheel of torture.

This is the one when he was Person of the Year during the 1930s. But at least they give you an idea of how evil he is.

This is the one when he was Person of the Year during the 1930s. But at least they give you an idea of how evil he is.

72. At Bloomberg we talk of how Walmart’s workers love working there.

For some reason, I don't see a happy face behind that smiley face mask. It's pretty clear the smiley face is a facade of this Walmart greeter's misery.

For some reason, I don’t see a happy face behind that smiley face mask. It’s pretty clear the smiley face is a facade of this Walmart greeter’s misery.

73. In this issue of Bloomberg, we talk about the hedge fund myth.

Seems like the man in this cover is in an interesting position. And it seems vaguely inappropriate how the arrows spring from his crotch.

Seems like the man in this cover is in an interesting position. And it seems vaguely inappropriate how the arrows spring from his crotch.

74. This month’s Vanity Fair, we take you to Miley Cyrus.

I know this cover seemed to get a lot of flack. But she doesn't look right in this. Not sure why.

I know this cover seemed to get a lot of flack. But she doesn’t look right in this. Not sure why.

75. In Weird Tales, creepy Asian guy wants blonde to play Wheel of Fortune.

Okay, maybe that's not Wheel of Fortune. But this really doesn't have a good perception on Asians. The guy looks so evil.

Okay, maybe that’s not Wheel of Fortune. But this really doesn’t have a good perception on Asians. The guy looks so evil.

76. Time brings you into the world of dirty words.

So they're talking about American pop culture containing swear words. Well, they can just fuck it for all I care. Because this looks fucking awful.

So they’re talking about American pop culture containing swear words and how it’s ruining everything. Well, they can just fuck it for all I care. Because this looks fucking awful.

77. In this issue of Weird Tales, Death goes for naked women.

This magazine seems to have a lot of scantily clad women on their covers. Possibly since sex sells. Yet, this is crazy.

This magazine seems to have a lot of scantily clad women on their covers. Possibly since sex sells. Yet, this is crazy.

78. In Weird Tales, learn how to keep winged demons out of your relationship.

I guess a knife will certainly scare the creepy guy off. But I'm not sure if it will be enough.

I guess a knife will certainly scare the creepy guy off. But I’m not sure if it will be enough.

79. In this issue of For Men Only, it’s best that you beware of the minks.

Because they will attack in droves. And even the most manly men won't be able to stop them from eating flesh. Yes, these minks kill for your blood.

Because they will attack in droves. And even the most manly men won’t be able to stop them from eating flesh. Yes, these minks kill for your blood.

80. Sophia Loren doesn’t wear much for her Life cover.

While I can understand why she's not wearing much, her outfit is best to be desired. Seriously, that looks atrocious.

While I can understand why she’s not wearing much, her outfit is best to be desired. Seriously, that looks atrocious.

81. Crime Detective presents blondes in bondage.

Okay, she's more likely a skimpy clothed kidnap victim dressed to entice male readers. But you get the idea. Still, this is in very poor taste.

Okay, she’s more likely a skimpy clothed kidnap victim dressed to entice male readers. But you get the idea. Still, this is in very poor taste and even she’s not happy about it.

82. Time introduces you to the world of Vladimir Putin.

Here we have him in a candid pose with the title, "Hello, Comrade." Yet, despite the friendly presentation, they say he's anything but a nice guy from Russia.

Here we have him in a candid pose with the title, “Hello, Comrade.” Yet, despite the friendly presentation, they say he’s anything but a nice guy from Russia.

83. Sarah Jessica Parker graces the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

In this issue, they ask her about her life before coming to Earth. They also talk to her about how her eyes can shoot laser beams.

In this issue, they ask her about her life before coming to Earth. They also talk to her about how her eyes can shoot laser beams.

84. Hope you can enjoy the latest fashion from this month’s issue of Elle.

Don't mind how one of these women seems to have a freakishly long neck. Or how she might be a vampire.

Don’t mind how one of these women seems to have a freakishly long neck. Or how she might be a vampire.

85. In Weird Tales, there’s no escape from zombies trying to get you.

I get the impression this magazine focuses a lot on the occult. Also, I don't think a whip will save you.

I get the impression this magazine focuses a lot on the occult. Also, I don’t think a whip will save you.

86. Jerry Yang from Yahoo! surfs the net at Time.

Even in the 1990s, this looked pretty stupid. Certainly really looks outdated now. Don't know why they thought it was a good idea.

Even in the 1990s, this looked pretty stupid. Certainly really looks outdated now. Don’t know why they thought it was a good idea.

87. Seventeen reconnects with Sarah Michelle Gellar on her life after Buffy.

Well, her head is a bit big for her body while her arms are a little rubbery. I mean this doesn't look like Sarah Michelle Gellar in the slightest.

Well, her head is a bit big for her body while her arms are a little rubbery. I mean this doesn’t look like Sarah Michelle Gellar in the slightest.

88. In Weird Tales, we go to India where turban guys sexually traffic white women.

And it seems that any scantily clad women in Weird Tales is seen as white. Makes me wonder if it has anything to do with Missing White Woman Syndrome.

And it seems that any scantily clad women in Weird Tales is seen as white. Makes me wonder if it has anything to do with Missing White Woman Syndrome.

89. In Weird Tales, bald emperor guy tries to seduce a blonde.

Yep, that's what it looks like. And she's being carried by women and androgynous bald servants. Also, is that a knife?

Yep, that’s what it looks like. And she’s being carried by women and androgynous bald servants. Also, is that a knife?

90. Time asks you whether you’re mom enough.

I'm sure that boy is way too old to breastfeed by now. Also, Time, how dare you sexualize motherhood and drag a toddler in the national spotlight. This kid will never live it down in high school.

I’m sure that boy is way too old to breastfeed by now. Also, Time, how dare you sexualize motherhood and drag a toddler in the national spotlight. This kid will never live it down in high school.

91. Rolling Stone tells us what it’s like to be Brad Pitt.

Hmmm...so Brad Pitt is smoking a cigarette and wearing a dress. I'm sure he wouldn't want this issue to see the light of day.

Hmmm…so Brad Pitt is smoking a cigarette and wearing a dress. I’m sure he wouldn’t want this issue to see the light of day.

92. Gracing this issue of W is none other than Janet Jackson.

From Carolyn Collado: "The pop artist didn’t deserve such distasteful W cover with her body looking distorted. The W magazine have done everything to ruin the diva’s image including too much makeup, unbecoming outfit and awkward pose you would wonder where was Janet’s neck that time."

From Carolyn Collado: “The pop artist didn’t deserve such distasteful W cover with her body looking distorted. The W magazine have done everything to ruin the diva’s image including too much makeup, unbecoming outfit and awkward pose you would wonder where was Janet’s neck that time.”

93. On the cover of Vanity Fair Spain is Hilton Hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

From Carolyn Collado: "Greg Lotus image for Paris Hilton for Vanity Fair Spain in January 2012 looked stunning and perfect if only for the fact that we are kinda confused whether the magazine really tapped the hotel heiress for the cover or did they have Paris Hilton’s wax figure covered on her behalf? The excessive retouching defeated the purpose of glamour that we rather pay more attention to her cute pup."

From Carolyn Collado: “Greg Lotus image for Paris Hilton for Vanity Fair Spain in January 2012 looked stunning and perfect if only for the fact that we are kinda confused whether the magazine really tapped the hotel heiress for the cover or did they have Paris Hilton’s wax figure covered on her behalf? The excessive retouching defeated the purpose of glamour that we rather pay more attention to her cute pup.”

94. Time sits down with tech sensation and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

From Mashable: "Imagine you're Bill Gates and you get a phone call saying, "Congratulations, you're on the cover of 'Time' magazine!" and then, in the next breath, they say, "but we want you to look like a stereotypical nerd and spin a floppy disk in your hands." In 1984, this would be reality for the future richest man on Earth."

From Mashable: “Imagine you’re Bill Gates and you get a phone call saying, “Congratulations, you’re on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine!” and then, in the next breath, they say, “but we want you to look like a stereotypical nerd and spin a floppy disk in your hands.” In 1984, this would be reality for the future richest man on Earth.”

95. For Time, it’s 3 cheers for Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Prince Charles looks particularly unflattering in this. Also, keep in mind that after 2 boys, they'd both cheat on each other and later divorce. Also, Diana died in a car wreck.

Prince Charles looks particularly unflattering in this. Diana doesn’t look great either. Also, keep in mind that after 2 boys, they’d both cheat on each other and later divorce. Also, Diana died in a car wreck.

96. Time scares you with the horrors of children and cyber porn.

To be honest, online porn exposure in children is a very real concern in this day in age. But this cover really makes it horrifying.

To be honest, online porn exposure in children is a very real concern in this day in age. But this cover really makes it horrifying.

97. New in Time, what doctors hate about hospitals.

This doctor seems like the hospital is a house of horrors. Well, this cover story explores medical errors.

This doctor seems like the hospital is a house of horrors. Well, this cover story explores medical errors.

98. According to Spy, Hillary Clinton is a dominatrix.

Or a BDSM dominatrix who should be our next president by now instead of the orange faced fuckwad president-elect we already have. Fuck you, white voters in Rust Belt states. Okay, maybe the BDSM Hillary is a little too far for 1993.

Or a BDSM dominatrix who should be our next president by now instead of the orange faced fuckwad president-elect we already have. Fuck you, white voters in Rust Belt states. Okay, maybe the BDSM Hillary is a little too far for 1993.

99. The New Yorker features the Obamas on their cover.

Now this looks pretty offensive and I remember when it came out. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would later parody this.

Now this looks pretty offensive and I remember when it came out. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would later parody this.

100. Time features the golden geeks.

From Mashable: "Marc Andreessen became a BFD after Netscape went public -- and part of being a BFD meant that 'Time' would sit him in a royal chair and make him take off his shoes. And thus, the modern mythos that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs don't wear shoes was born."

From Mashable: “Marc Andreessen became a BFD after Netscape went public — and part of being a BFD meant that ‘Time’ would sit him in a royal chair and make him take off his shoes. And thus, the modern mythos that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs don’t wear shoes was born.”

Why We Need to Defend Network Neutrality

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Since the 1990s, the internet has become so much a part of our lives that it’s easy to imagine that it will always remain the free and open medium it is now. We’d like to believe it will remain a place where you can always access any lawful content you want and where those delivering that content can’t play favorites because they disagree with the message being delivered or want to charge more money for faster delivery. However, despite that we have rules in place protecting network neutrality thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, there may be no such guarantees after January 20, 2017. Why? Because not only did 60 million voters elect an unrespectable man like our soon-to-be groper-in-chief, Republicans have control of both houses in Congress and will more than likely retain power on the Supreme Court. Furthermore, there Senate hasn’t reconfirmed a Democratic FCC commissioner to another 5-year-term. Not only that, but the man President-Elect Evil Cheeto Head wants to chair the FCC is a longtime opponent of net neutrality and telecom lobbyist. If Donald Trump and his swamp cronies have their way within the next 4-8 years, this open internet and the network neutrality principles that sustain it, could be a thing of the past. Profits and corporate disfavor of controversial viewpoints or competing services can change both of what you see online and your connection quality. And the need to monitor what you do online in order to play favorites means even more consumer privacy invasions piled up on top of the NSA’s prying eyes. A lot of Americans don’t know about net neutrality because it doesn’t get a lot of coverage on the news media than it should. As for me, I first heard about this from my parents while I was in high school after they watched something from Bill Moyers about it. Those who do overwhelmingly support it across the political spectrum. And many Americans take the notion of a free and open internet for granted which they will sure to miss. But unfortunately, its share of detractors are in high positions of power as well as contribute generously to Republican politicians. Here I list a rough FAQ on net neutrality basics because if there’s a time we need to know and preserve net neutrality to protect the internet, it is now.

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Network neutrality is the principle that requires all legal content to be treated equally by internet service providers. This allows consumers to pay a monthly fee to the ISPs in order to access any website and service they want. Net neutrality is essential for a free and open internet in a digital economy as well as in a 21st century democracy.

What Is Network Neutrality?

Network neutrality is the guiding principle that internet service providers and government regulators should allow access to all applications and content regardless of source and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. In other words, while ISPs provide you access to the internet, they should treat all services and websites the equally, which lets you use it as much as you want for anything you want at the cost of a monthly fee. Network neutrality preserves a free and open internet while preventing companies from discriminating against different kinds of websites and services.

What’s the Difference Between ISPs and Content Providers?

An ISP is a company that provides you access to the Internet like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Cox, Charter, and Time Warner Cable. Most people get their high-speed internet access from only these few telecommunication giants. The very few smaller carriers usually rely on the big guys to serve their customers. Content providers are companies that create and/or distribute videos and programs like Netflix and Amazon. Sometimes ISPs can also be content providers as well since Comcast owns NBC Universal as well as delivers TV shows and movies through its Xfinity internet service.

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We should care about network neutrality because it encourages innovation, promotes free speech, and prevents abuse by ISP gatekeepers. Without it, ISPs would demand a cut from every website in order to funnel that content to customers and possibly slow down or block content they don’t like. What the ISPs want the internet to be like should be unacceptable to all Americans.

Why Should We Care About Network Neutrality?

Network neutrality is essential because a free and open internet is the single greatest technology of our times that stimulates ISP competition, helps prevent unfair pricing practices, promotes innovation, promotes the spread of ideas, drives entrepreneurship, and protects freedom of speech. Overall, network neutrality keeps the internet a cornerstone of freedom and opportunity. When we receive or send data over the internet, we expect our ISPs to transfer it from one end of the network to the other. We don’t expect them to analyze or manipulate it. Without net neutrality, telecommunications companies can carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP can slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs can also charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment while relegating everyone else to a slower rate of service. Such actions could destroy an open internet. So this is a very important issue.

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Telecom companies want to interfere with their customers’ internet mainly for profit and corporate interests. They want to block speech that would make them look bad, slow down or block applications that aren’t their own, and increase profits by making developers pay more to avoid having their data blocked or slowed down.

Why Would the Telecoms Want to Interfere with Internet Data?

Well, the answer boils down to simple profit and corporate interests. Companies might want to interfere with speech that makes them look bad, block applications that compete with their own, or increase their profit by forcing developers to pay more to avoid having their data blocked or slowed down.

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Those who believe that competition will ensure a free and open internet are sorely mistaken since building broadband is expensive that most ISPs are telecom companies since they already have the communication infrastructure already in place. And as far as internet provider consumer choice is concerned, most Americans are usually limited to 3 or fewer.

Won’t Competition Prevent Them from Doing Any of This?

Sorry, free-market believers, but your faith in the divine forces of capitalism will not save you. Normally competition should and would prevent telecoms from interfering with internet data. But it won’t. For one, data manipulation isn’t always easily detectable. Content can be delayed or distorted in a number of subtle ways. Secondly, building a high-speed broadband service is very expensive so there aren’t many of them. So it’s no surprise that they tend to be big phone and cable companies because they already have the data “pipes” in place. Most Americans don’t have more than a handful for legitimate high-speed broadband options at home (the vast majority have 3 or fewer). What this means is that customers can’t switch if big broadband providers start messing around with their service. Additionally, big content providers like Netflix have to send their data through these “last mile” gatekeepers. So, all you free-market absolutist libertarians, the current market competition just isn’t enough to stop them from blocking services or charging more for a fast lane.

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If telecom companies had their way which might happen under a Trump administration, you can expect a the future of the internet to look like a pay to play service like this. Doesn’t seem like one you’d want, does it?

Have There Been Any Actual Instances of Service Providers Interfering with the Internet or Is This All Theoretical?

Real abuses have happened consistently over the past decade. New technologies now allow telecom companies to scrutinize over every piece of information we send or receive online like websites, email, videos, Internet phone calls, or data generated by games or social networks. They could also program the computers that route that information to interfere with the data flow by slowing down or blocking traffic and communicators that they don’t like while speeding up traffic they do or that pays them extra for the privilege. To put it this way, imagine if your phone company could mess with your calls every time you tried to order a pizza from Domino’s because Pizza Hut is paying them to route their calls first. Though opponents claim the threat is only “theoretical” or that applying common carrier principles to the internet is a “solution in search of a problem,” there have been numerous incidents of abuse. There’s AT&T censoring words from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder when he sang, “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home.” The company complained the words were censored to prevent youth visiting the website from being exposed to “excessive profanity.” Though the song contained none. They later blamed it on an external website contractor hired to screen the performance.  There’s Comcast discriminating against an entire class of online activities by using deep packet inspection to block file transfers from customers using popular peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent, eDonkey, and Gnutella. In national tests conducted by the Associated Press, their actions were confirmed to be unrelated to network congestion since blocking took place at times when it wasn’t congested. And while Comcast blocked applications often used in trade videos like pirated content, much of what was blocked was legitimate. Then we have Verizon cutting off text-messaging program by the pro-choice group NARAL that it used to send messages to its supporters. The company stated that it wouldn’t service programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” And that was just 2007. These are just incidents but this kind of behavior hasn’t become broadly accepted to the internet structure. But without enforceable net neutrality rules in place (which can happen under a Trump administration), that could quickly happen. The consistency of these abuses tells us all we need to know about what will happen if companies are permitted to exploit their power over our Internet connections.

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Net neutrality is great for business since it puts small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs on an fair and playing field. They rely on net neutrality to launch their business, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute their goods to customers. This helps create jobs, competition, and innovation. Without it, ISPs would seize every possible opportunity to profit which would squeeze its competitors out.

Why Is Network Neutrality Important for Business?

Net neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups, and entrepreneurs, because they rely on an open internet to launch their business, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute their goods to customers. They need an open internet to foster job growth, competition, and innovation in the 21st century and beyond. Net neutrality lowers the barriers for them by ensuring the web is a fair and level playing field. And it’s because of net neutrality that businesses and entrepreneurs are able to thrive online. They use the internet to reach new customers as well as showcase their goods, applications and services. Since ISPs are by definition the gatekeepers to the internet, they would seize every possible opportunity to profit from that gatekeeper control if net neutrality wasn’t in place while the next Google wouldn’t get off the ground. So no company should be able to interfere with this open marketplace.

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Net neutrality is essential for a free democracy in the 21st century because it protects freedom of speech. Not only that, but net neutrality allows the internet to be a platform for voices to be heard who wouldn’t be represented otherwise in our media landscape.

Why Is Network Neutrality Important for Communities of Color?

The open internet allows communities of color to tell their own stories as well as organize for racial and social justice. The mainstream media has failed to allow people of color speak for themselves. And due to economic inequality and runaway media consolidation, they own only a handful of broadcast stations. This lack of divers ownership is a primary reason why the media has gotten away with portraying minority communities stereotypically. The open internet gives marginalized voices opportunities to be heard which they wouldn’t previously have access to. Without net neutrality, ISPs could block unpopular speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. This would lead people of color to lose a vital platform. Not to mention, millions of minority owned small businesses wouldn’t be able to compete with large corporations online, which would further deepen economic inequality in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. This isn’t just limited to communities of color either. For instance, the Internet is a great place to find out about environmental disasters in rural areas that tend to slip under the radar, which I’ve put to very good use. Not to mention, since runaway media consolidation and decline in newspapers has led to less local voices being heard from within their communities and less local content being produced, having a free and open internet more than makes up for it.

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President-Elect Cheeto Creepazoid is a known opponent of net neutrality and has a known telecom lobbyist he wants to tap to head the FCC. It’s also clear that he doesn’t understand net neutrality either. Since he’s an extremely greedy and vindictive bastard who’s no friend to free speech, expect to take his views on this subject very seriously. Because starting January 20, 2017, net neutrality’s days may be numbered.

Why Do We Need to Defend Network Neutrality?

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission enacted Title II reclassification of internet access service to a telecommunications service which allows the agency to create strong network neutrality rules allowing customers to have reasonable, reliable, and nondiscriminatory services. What the FCC did was designate ISPs as “common carriers” or private companies that sell their services to consumers without discrimination. This is similar to how consumers received landline telephone service. A federal court decision has also upheld the ruling.  However, even good ideas have their detractors and net neutrality is no different. Since the 2015 FCC Title II classification, opponents have worked everywhere from Congress to the courts in order to dismantle or undermine it. While foes have filed 10 lawsuits over it, Republican lawmakers have put forth more than a dozen bills or amendments to weaken or kill the FCC’s new regulations. None succeeded. However, Donald Trump’s election to the presidency as well as guaranteed Republican control of Congress and possibly the Supreme Court is very likely to mean that net neutrality’s days may be numbered. Trump will appoint 2 new commissioners in 2017 (while a Democratic member hasn’t been reconfirmed for another term) and has 2 people on his transition team with strong ties to the telecom industry. Trump’s man to run the FCC is Jeffrey Eisenach who’s a known anti-regulatory zealot criticized for his anti-neutrality stance as a think tank scholar while receiving funds from Verizon to underwrite his work. As Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeffrey Chester states, “What Trump appears to be doing on internet and privacy policy is basically allowing the swamp to decide our digital future, allowing crocodiles to eat up our rights. What the big cable and phone companies want Trump to do is to turn the internet over to them to run as a private fiefdom.” Since Trump is known to be very pro-business and a greedy sociopath as well as no friend to the First Amendment and constitutional rights, his opposition to net neutrality is almost certainly sincere. So as soon as Trump is sworn in, expect net neutrality to be a threat.

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Here is a small snapshot of net neutrality camps. Most Americans aware of net neutrality usually favor it along with the following mentioned. Those opposed are usually telecom companies as well as free-market conservatives and libertarians.

Who Supports Network Neutrality?

The good news is that network neutrality enjoys huge bipartisan support among consumers since more than 4 million Americans have filed public comments with the FCC about it, which is more than any other issue it’s handled. Chances are if Americans have heard of net neutrality, they most likely support it regardless of race, age, creed, political stance, or income level. The fact so many organizations support it like Greenpeace, Gun Owners of America, the Christian Coalition, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, AARP, American Library Association, Consumer Federation of America, and the Media Access Project illustrates how popular net neutrality is across the political spectrum. You can include unions and religious institutions as well. It also enjoys strong support from small businesses and large companies like Apple, Netflix, Tumblr, Kickstarter, Wikia, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Etsy, and others. President Barack Obama is one of the most prominent supporters of net neutrality whose expressed commitment to the cause helped lead to the landmark 2015 FCC ruling that designated the internet as a utility to preserve it and so are most Democratic Party politicians.

tim-murphy

This is Pennsylvania US Representative Tim Murphy (R). He represents my congressional district. Unlike the most of his possible constituents Murphy publicly opposes network neutrality which is against the interests of every internet user, mostly due to big telecom companies giving him big wads of cash. That and how nobody seems to successfully run against him. If you live in my congressional district and think you can beat him, give me a call. Please, I don’t want him representing me any more. And I don’t care if people in my district approve of him.

Who Opposes Network Neutrality?

The bad news is that despite being a highly good and popular idea, net neutrality has a lot of very powerful enemies such as telecommunications industries, some network engineers, conservative to libertarian scholars, and many Republican politicians. Major ISPs and telecommunication companies like Comcast, Verizon, Cox, AT&T, and Time Warner mainly oppose net neutrality because they want to manage internet access like blocking charging users different rates to access different services or simply blocking certain services altogether. The 2015 FCC Title II ruling was not great to their bottom line that they’ve vowed to fight these regulations all the way to the Supreme Court. And in fact, the last time the FCC tried to instill net neutrality protections, Verizon sued and the rules were overturned by a federal court in 2014. These companies have lobbied against net neutrality 3 times as hard as its biggest proponents as well as outspent them 5 to 1. They also heavily contribute to Republican political campaigns which explains why so many GOP politicians oppose net neutrality while their constituents overwhelmingly don’t. Many of these politicians call it, “Obamacare for the Internet.” Organizations against net neutrality are usually free-market advocacy groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation. Tech companies like IBM, Intel, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Juniper also oppose net neutrality measures as well.

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The main reason why many Americans don’t know much about net neutrality is due to runaway media consolidation. As of 2016, 90% of the media is controlled by 6 corporation. Two of these corporations are telecom giants like Comcast and Time Warner who oppose net neutrality.

Why Don’t We Hear About Network Neutrality?

Mostly because the mainstream media rarely talks about it if ever. Yes, there may have been an episode of John Oliver about it as well as some discussion on PBS but that’s about it. A big reason for this is media consolidation. As of now, only 6 corporations control 90% of media in the United States, including Comcast and Time Warner who are known to oppose net neutrality. And it doesn’t help that Comcast owns MSNBC while Time Warner owns CNN. Then there’s Fox News which is a conservative news outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch. Not to mention, a lot of telecoms sponsor a lot of news programming which can influence their content. The fact so many Americans have never heard about net neutrality leads them to take the notion of a free internet for granted. And if Trump’s administration gets rid of it, most Americans will miss it.

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Protecting Network Neutrality is important for all Americans and we need to make sure it survives the Trump administration. 21st America depends on a free and open internet which is essential for our society. This is a list of what you can do.

What Can We Do to Protect Network Neutrality?

Well, you can do a lot of things to protect network neutrality. You can e-mail the Federal Communications Commission. You can contact your state representatives (though make sure they’re not against net neutrality before you do so because a lot of them receive campaign contributions from giant telecom companies. So if you live in Pennsylvania and your representative is Tim Murphy or Joseph Pitts, contact Senator Bob Casey instead. Because Senator Pat Toomey is against net neutrality, too, along with these big telecom industry stooges). You can donate to civil liberties and consumer groups like Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Free Press, Consumers Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union. You can stay informed and tell your friends. At any rate, remember that network neutrality isn’t a partisan issue so don’t let Trump’s swamp cronies let telecom companies slow down or block sites users love. And let the FCC use its Title II powers to stop them.

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Remember Trump and his swamp cronies are enemies of the free and open internet we know and love. Don’t let them kill network neutrality or this will happen. Please, my fellow Americans, I know most of you support this. Please don’t fail me like you did in the 2016 Election. America can’t afford this.