Quantcast

Leslie Savan | The Nation

  •  

Leslie Savan

Politics, media and the politics of media.

Shep Smith Slams Fellow Foxers for Fanning Fear of Ebola

Shep Smith

Shep Smith (Photo: Fox News)

Shep Smith, often the sole voice of reason on Fox News, had had enough of his colleagues’ conspiratorial, “hysterical” and “irresponsible” fear-mongering over Ebola.

Earlier this week, Laura Ingraham had called CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden “the Baghdad Bob of the health care community,” Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume agreed that “the federal government under President Obama [is] not telling the truth” about Ebola, Sean Hannity said he wouldn’t cover the CDC press conference because “I don’t trust them,” and Fox house shrink Keith Ablow decided that Obama is letting Ebola into America because he “may literally believe we should suffer.” And that’s just a sampling of the crazy.

And so yesterday, Shep told his media brethren and the viewers they’re freaking out to take a deep breath and, basically, to ignore Fox. “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio or television or read the fear-provoking words online,” he said. “The people who write and say hysterical things are being irresponsible.

He gave them an extra strong hit of fact-based reality:

You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise. Unless a medical professional has contacted you personally and told you of some sort of possible exposure, fear not.…

Suggestions have been made publicly that leaders and medical professionals may be lying to us. Those suggestions are completely without basis and fact. There is no evidence of any kind of which we at Fox News are aware that leaders have lied about anything regarding Ebola.

I report to you with certainty this afternoon that being afraid at all is the wrong thing to do. Being petrified and that’s a quote, is ridiculous. The panic that has tanked the stock market and left people fearful their children will get sick at school is counterproductive and lacks basis in fact or reason. There is no Ebola spreading in America. Should that change, our reporting will change. But there is nothing to indicate that it will.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

There is one concrete thing you can do to fight your fears, he said:

Best advice for you and your family at this moment get a flu shot. Unlike Ebola, flu is easily transmitted. Flu with resulting pneumonia killed 52,000 Americans last year alone. A flu shot will reduce your chance of getting flu. So get one.

Watch:

We’ve also heard a lack of hysteria from Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who took on O’Reilly by name. “My colleague, Bill O’Reilly, has called for the head of the CDC to resign. I disagree totally with him. I think Dr. Frieden has done a good job and I want him to continue to lead this,” she said Monday.

“I think Bill O’Reilly’s dead wrong on this one.”

But mostly it’s Shep who, from time to time, actively counters the Fox narrative. (Keep in mind, he’s not risking his job by doing so. Last year he signed a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract, making him Fox’s second-highest paid anchor, after O’Reilly.) On many issues—birtherism, climate change and, most famously, torture (“I don’t give a rat’s ass if it helps,” he once shouted. “We are America! We do not fucking torture! We don’t do it!”)—Smith has bucked the Fox fear-and-hate machine.

Media Matters has put together a handy video of “Seven Times Shep Smith Was Fox News’ Voice Of Reason.” It starts with Smith educating Fox reporter Doug McKelway yesterday over his claim that there’s “widespread panic across the country.”

Are the Beltway Media Helping Mitch McConnell Stay in Power?

Alison Lundergan Grimes

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, file)

The Beltway media are at it again, creating winners and losers long before Election Day. Yesterday I wrote that Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s one and only Senate debate, and if you watched the debate, you might agree.

But if you had only followed the media coverage, you might well believe that Grimes is a goner, that her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama was of such import that it rightly overshadowed all other issues the candidates fought over—minimum wage, jobs, climate change, student loans, healthcare—and that her demurral was far more worthy of coverage than McConnell’ s actual lies and deceptions about the healthcare of 500,000 Kentuckians.

And if Grimes’s non-answer wasn’t a pretend disaster enough for the media to hyperventilate over, they got more confirmation later yesterday when the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee announced it wasn’t going to spend more to run ads in Kentucky. Well, surely that showed that Big Dems agreed with Big Media that Grimes was out. Money speaks. She’s over. Or so it seems.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

But the media have it wrong. First, on the debate: Columbia Journalism Review did a large round-up of the political media responses to Monday’s debate and found that the coverage was “imbalanced” and that it “calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.”

Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

Grimes’ non-answer received headline treatment on web stories at CBS, NBC ABC, and CNN. The Washington Post devoted an entire piece to the refusal, which led the Associated Press’ story , and Politico and National Journal both listed it as their top takeaway of the debate. Such stories either omitted McConnell’s claim or played it down relative to Grimes’ comment. FoxNews.com mentioned only the latter, meanwhile, and The Wall Street Journal left McConnell’s statement as its story’s kicker, unchallenged.

It’s not as if the media was hearing Mitch’s lie for the first time and simply lacked the time to study up on it. It had all been reported on before:

Liberalmedia and a few national outlets, such as the AP, challenged the five-term senator’s claim back [in May]. Indeed, an Obamacare repeal would have huge consequences for the Bluegrass State, as an estimated half-million residents have signed up for health coverage through its Kynect exchange. A Washington Post Fact Checker column soon after concluded, “the history of individual state exchanges shows it is not credible for McConnell to suggest that the state exchange would survive without the broad health-care system constructed by the Affordable Care Act, such as an individual mandate and subsidies to buy insurance.”

Given the availability of such reporting, not to mention McConnell’s hazy logic in a race in which Obamacare has been a central theme, it’s unclear why the national media didn’t pounce on his answer Monday. What’s more, local coverage of the debate suggests that Grimes’ voting history—a sign of her allegiance to President Barack Obama—is merely one of many concerns or Kentucky voters.

It is true that the DSCC stopped running ads in Kentucky in order to redirect funds to other state races. But the Democratic Senate campaign arm is still funding Grimes’s get-out-the-vote drive, and is “monitoring the race for future investments,” according to a DSCC official. In any case, Grimes is very well-funded herself, having just announced a record breaking nearly $5 million haul for the third quarter.

But the national media were quick to jump to the most melodramatic conclusion. As Daily Kos pointed out:

Today a rumor was spread throughout national media by irresponsible nationally-known media (Chris Cillizza, Jon Heilemann, Mark Halpirin, MSNBC, CNN) that “Democrats have abandoned Grimes”.

Heilemann and Halperin agreed on their program that “Her campaign is dead”.

This rumor was based upon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) not having pre-purchased ad buys in KY market for last 3 weeks of campaign. The DSCC has been very active in the Kentucky market, with great ads playing. The DSCC acknowledged this was true, but that they were open to purchases if necessary.

Guy Cecil, the Executive Director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, posted at about 8:00pm eastern Tuesday night 10/14, on Twitter:

Guy Cecil ‏@guycecil 3h 3 hours ago

Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That’s an interesting view of “pulling out of the race”

And for all this, you’d never know that as of Wednesday afternoon, Alison Grimes is only three points behind Mitch McConnell in the RealClearPolitics average.

 

Read Next: Alison Lundergan Grimes: Secret Koch Conference Recording Is Mitch McConnell’s ‘47 Percent Moment’

Grimes Beats McConnell in Kentucky Debate

debate

(Photo: USA Today/KET)

When Alison Lundergan Grimes began interrupting Mitch McConnell last night in the first and only debate in the Kentucky Senate contest, it became clear, if it hadn’t already, that she just could possibly win this race.

“I hate to interrupt,” Grimes said toward the end of the nearly one-hour debate, and went on to mock one of McConnell’s most frequent verbal tics. “But ‘under this administration’?—we’ve used that ‘this administration’ over and over again. Senator McConnell fails to see he has a role in all the jobs that have been lost in this state.”

It didn’t matter so much what she interrupted him about. The point was to show that she could dominate and rattle the Senate minority leader.

And she did. When it came time for the two candidates’ closing statements, McConnell was reduced to bragging that in a recent poll, “congressional staffers” had voted him the Senate’s hardest-working member. It was so stiflingly inside-the-Beltway that, should he lose, it could serve as his political epitaph.

Grimes still has an uphill fight, of course, and McConnell is up by four points in the latest poll, from Fox. But in last night’s debate, Grimes came off so strong and McConnell was so droning that it could possibly drown out her embarrassing refusal to say whether or not she voted for Obama, who’s more unpopular in the state than even the widely disliked Mitch.

But her ridiculous politician’s spin on that—claiming she wouldn’t answer because “our Constitution here in Kentucky grants the right to privacy at the ballot box”—is less ridiculous and much less consequential to Kentuckians than Mitch’s refusal to say what he really means when he vows to repeal Obamacare “root and branch.” The state’s version of the Affordable Care Act, Kynect, is hugely successful, and Mitch was as slippery as a wet doorknob last night. “That’s fine,” he said. “I think it’s fine to have a website. Yeah.”

As if the website portal to Obamacare isn’t itself a major root. As Talking Points Memo points out:

If Obamacare is repealed, then the federal subsidies for the coverage expansion would disappear and Kentucky would either have to strip that insurance for recent recipients or foot the large bill through the state’s budget.….

Grimes torched “the fictional fantasy land that Mitch McConnell is in” on Obamacare, saying that she would keep the law and tweak aspects of it, such as by extending the “grandfathering” clause so as to let individuals keep insurance policies deemed substandard by Obamacare rules.

She said more than half a million Kentuckians have benefited from the health care law—she didn’t use the word Obamacare—and promised that “I will not be a senator that rips that insurance from their hand.”

Grimes came across equally strong and McConnell equally out of touch on other subjects—from minimum wage (she called it a living wage; he wrongly maintained that it’s mostly for entry-level young workers) to student loans (she supports the Elizabeth Warren proposal to reduce student loan debt by taxing the rich; he says that would crush this generation’s children’s children and blah blah blah).

And although they both tried to out-coal each other, she accepts man-made climate change and is at least making noises about protecting miners from black lung, while he cited “George Will [who] wrote recently that back in ’70s a lot of scientists thought we were moving towards an ice age.”

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Again and again, she seemed to have more energy and was easier to listen to. His voice, on the other hand, tended to recede, as if pitched through the tunnel of his thirty years in Washington, a tenure she repeatedly bemoaned.

Many in the mainstream media had to allow that Grimes had the stronger performance. But they wouldn’t quite give it to her. For them, more important than the candidates’ stances on healthcare or shutting down the government was her tactical refusal to admit she voted for Obama.

It obscures her “otherwise” very “strong performance,” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza said today on Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC show.

But it is of course media people like Cillizza, and the guy he’d sometimes sub for on The Daily Rundown, Chuck Todd, who largely determine what obscures what.

Mitch McConnell liked so much what Todd said about Grimes’s dodge—that it “disqualified” her—that he made an ad out of it.

Watch:

Read Next: The Mitch McConnell/Allison Lundergan Grimes Kentucky Horse Race Update

The Mitch McConnell/Allison Lundergan Grimes Kentucky Horse Race Update

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Alison Lundergan Grimes (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Things were beginning to look up again for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Democrat who has a fighting chance of knocking Mitch McConnell out of his over-warmed seat as Senate minority leader. After slipping in the polls and getting outspent by McConnell forces two to one, Grimes surprised everyone last week by surging in the latest Bluegrass Poll, topping Mitch by two points, leaving her within three points of McConnell in the latest RCP poll average.

Then, at an endorsement meeting with the Louisville Courier-Journal yesterday, this happened (see first 40 seconds):

Like so many Dems running in red states, Grimes’s campaign revolves around the chant “I’m not Barack Obama.” Which makes it all the more strange that she didn’t have a stock answer for a question she had to know was coming. “Grimes is fairly new on the national scene, but she’s not new enough not to know how to answer this fairly simply,” Phil Bump writes in The Washington Post. “’Yes, I voted for him,’ you say, ‘but I’ve been disappointed by a lot of the things he’s done, particularly on COAL and JOBS and GUNS’ or whatever.” Chuck Todd, the new host of Meet the Press, is not new enough not to know better than to go overboard by saying, as he did on Morning Joe, “I think she disqualified herself” (a blowhard statement the rightwing blogs are lovin’).

Still, Grimes’s refusal to answer a direct question kind of shreds the image she’s assiduously been building as a strong Kentucky woman who looks tougher handling a gun than Mitch. That—and proving her distance from Obama—was the whole point of her ad “Shooting Skeet.” “It’s that gun ad” says Democratic Representative John Yarmuth of Louisville that’s responsible for her rise in the polls.

Her refusal to answer if she voted for Obama comes right after Mitch’s own bad performance earlier this week: he sounded angry and petulant on the most popular radio show in Kentucky.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

No, we progressives don’t like that Grimes won’t say who she votes for, that she won’t mention Obamacare—even though its Kentucky incarnation as KYnect is extremely successful—or that she’s trying to sound like she’s dirty coal’s best friend.

But the risks of her losing—the GOP winning the Senate and McConnell running it—are worth sucking it up for. If you want to look deeper into Kentucky politics, you should check out “Five Days in Kentucky,” Al Jazeera America’s half-hour special tonight at 8:30 ET, the culmination of shorter reports that have been running all week.

And if you want to dig still deeper into the Kentucky coal debate, you have to see Chris Hayes’s “Coal Country,” also a five-parter running every day this week, on his 8 pm show on MSNBC; it began with a focus on Kentucky, travels to other states, and lands on the future beyond coal.

Read Next: A Kentucky objection to McConnell’s pandering to millionaires and billionaires

Scariest Ad of the Week

NRA ad

Every time I see this ad, or one of the ten others in its series, I start to shudder. It’s not just the Sturm-und-Drang music and the sheer weirdness of the script (“We are surrounded by a world that demands we submit, succumb, and believe in nothing…. the cowards who pretend they don’t notice the elderly man fall and who walk right past the little girl who’s way too young to be here alone, who raise the volume to silence the scream in the night”). It’s also creepy because you don’t find out until the very end what product it’s shilling. But here’s a hint: watching it, you might just feel like you have a gun pointed at your head. Agree, or else.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Michael Daly at the Daily Beast details why this multimillion-dollar ad campaign is “despicable.”

Read Next: Right-Wing Fear-Mongering Is Far More Contagious Than Ebola

Right-Wing Fear-Mongering Is Far More Contagious Than Ebola

Andrea Tantaros

Ebola, ISIS, immigrants, the Secret Service: So much of the news lately turns on fears of barriers being breached—viruses flying in from Africa, “illegals” sneaking across the border, terrorists invading the homeland and, in a microcosm of it all, intruders barging through the White House front door. And right-wing media, which live to draw red lines between “us” and “them,” are turning the panic volume up to 11.

Some of the panic is understandable. The images we carry around in our heads now are particularly gruesome—ranging from beheadings to uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea. But the right’s response, as usual, is to try to wall off the perceived threat—ban flights from West Africa (and eventually all of Africa?), define Muslims as irredeemably violent and, basically, build a higher dang fence and then Otherize the heck out of everything on the other side.

Which makes this a particularly ripe moment for Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros. Nobody does disgust for the Other quite like her. With her trademark sneer and outlandish claims, she has a knack for stigmatizing her foes by tying them to everything bad and scary.

We should fear travelers from West Africa, Tantaros says, because “someone could get off a flight and seek treatment from a witch doctor who practices Santeria.”

“Eric Holder is one of the biggest race baiters in this entire country,” she said after his visit to Ferguson, Missouri. “He runs that DOJ like the Black Panthers would.”

And what’s up with the president and terrorists? “I feel he’s allowing them to get this caliphate,” and he hasn’t “brought the killers in Benghazi to justice,” she says, because “when it comes to terrorism, he doesn’t act because he believes we have been oppressive.”

Of course, Tantaros isn’t the only winger to build walls out of spittle. Laura Ingraham, a contributor on Fox and (in what should shame ABC) on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, nearly went birther to explain why Obama hasn’t called for a ban on flights from West Africa. It’s because of his “familial connection with Africa” and his “core ties to the African continent,” she said on her radio show. “Come on, it doesn’t make any sense to not stop those flights from coming here.”

Right, that’s why.

As health experts—including Fox contributor Dr. Marc Siegel—have been explaining ad infinitum, banning travel from entire countries can make the disease spread farther faster.

“Even if we tried to close the border, it wouldn’t work,” CDC director Tom Frieden said on MSNBC Friday. “People have a right to return. People transiting through could come in. And it would backfire, because by isolating these countries, it’ll make it harder to help them, it will spread more there and we’d be more likely to be exposed here.”

But such two- or three-step thoughts don’t allow the Id to fully vent. The very calmness of public health experts can make righties refuse to believe them. “You have a very calm tone,” Elizabeth Hasselbeck told a doctor who explained on Fox & Friends how hard it is to contract Ebola. “It must come by nature with what you do professionally, doctor. The rest of us are saying, ‘Wait a minute, there’s a lot of panic when it comes to the flu, to lice.’ As a parent, I’m thinking, ‘Well, there should be a little bit of justification for worry here.’ Am I wrong?”

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Actually, studies have found that conservatives are more easily disgusted than liberals, and that “people who feel disgust tend to judge the moral transgressions of others more harshly.” Maybe that’s why conservatives are so eager to seal off cooties of all sorts.

But I have to be honest. I, too, have fears and a sense of disgust over Ebola. I’ve also had the kneejerk thought that we should ban all flights from West Africa, and a part of me wants to bomb ISIS to the Stone Age, whatever that means.

But some of us can occasionally put our fears on pause and fact-check our brains. And many people simply don’t have the rage to propel their worst instincts out into the open.

Which is what notoriously germaphobic Donald Trump does every day. Do-gooders who go to Africa and catch Ebola shouldn’t be allowed back, he says. They “must suffer the consequences!” Todd Kincannon, a former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, feels similarly, tweeting, “People with Ebola in the US need to be humanely put down immediately.”

Fellow South Carolinian Stephen Colbert is also willing to grasp the nettle. Now that Ebola has traveled from “Whocaresistan” to Texas, he advises that we quarantine the state and, in fact, isolate the entire western USA behind a wall of fire.

See his solution to the Ebola epidemic here:

 

Read Next: “Why Liberians Thought Ebola Was a Government Scam to Attract Western Aid

The ‘Sentimentality Taboo’ and Fox News

Fox News

(Photo by: Giacinta Pace/NBC NewsWire via AP Images)

Writers Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison took on the “sentimentality taboo” in last week’s New York Times Book Review. They were talking about sentimentality and its critics in literature, from Flaubert to Nabokov, but what they said applies to all forms of media. Sentimentality, often with no taboo in sight, courses through political ads, cat videos, the human interest bits that close the nightly news (like NBC’s “Making a Difference”), social media swarms, cable dramas (like, for me, Masters of Sex); and, of course, tabloid journalism. At Fox News, the saccharine accompanies the acid, as in its never-ending narrative of the brave individual who battles, or at least complains about, the liberal tyranny.

But Jamieson argues persuasively against dismissing sentimentality out of hand. A school counselor once told her that her college essay about a young girl with cancer was too soppy for Harvard’s taste:

The fear of being too sentimental—writing or even liking sentimental work—shadowed the next decade of my life. The fear was so ingrained in me it became difficult to tell where outside voices ended and internal ones began. But the whole time I wasn’t entirely sure what I was afraid of: What was the difference between a sentimental story and a courageously emotive one? We dismiss sentimentality so fully—so instinctively—that we no longer bother justifying the dismissal, or mapping its edges. But it’s a useful question: What kind of failure does sentimentality represent? How can it be judged?

Resisting sentimentality means resisting exaggeration and oversimplification; it means resisting flat tragedy and crude emotional manipulation—the cheapening of feeling, the pulling of heartstrings. But I would argue that one of the deep unspoken fears beneath the sentimentality taboo is really the fear of commonality: the fear of being just like everyone else or telling a story just like everyone else’s.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

This made me think of Fox and how some of us, myself included, may too easily dismiss its audience because we detest its politics:

But many sentimental narratives have been deeply moving to many people, and it’s worth thinking about the things that make them compelling: their emotional intensity, their sense of stakes and values and feeling and friction, their investment in primal truths and predicaments—yes, common; yes, shared. Sentimentality is simply emotion shying away from its own full implications. Behind every sentimental narrative there’s the possibility of another one—more richly realized, more faithful to the fine grain and contradictions of human experience.

Read Next: Which cable network nearly skipped out on climate week?

Which Cable Network Nearly Skipped Out on Climate Week?

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Guess which cable news network covered Climate Week last month the least? It wasn’t Fox. It was CNN. In fact, CNN had less than half as much coverage as Fox—thirty-seven minutes to Fox’s one hour and twenty minutes, according to a new Media Matters study. MSNBC, natch, did the most, with one hour and fifty-five minutes. (Al Jazeerza’s numbers, which could rival MSNBC’s, weren’t analyzed.)

The corporate media’s inattention to climate change in general, and of Climate Week (the People’s Climate March, the UN Climate Summit, and related events like Flood Wall Street) in particular, has been shameful. Most notoriously, just hours before the September 21 march, not one of the four broadcast Sunday shows found it worth even mentioning—with the exception of Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, who, in a panel on ABC’s This Week, squeezed in the observation that wars in the Middle East distract from “real security challenges” like “a catastrophic climate crisis, which the Pentagon has called a clear and emerging danger. There are 100,000 people marching outside this studio today because of that.” That number grew to about 400,000 throughout the day.

You might have expected better from CNN, with its (former) focus on the worldwide news and all the time in the world to fill. True, global disaster doesn’t measure up to a missing plane (six days after Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, CNN devoted 256 minutes to it—in just one six-hour period) or, for that matter, a missing white woman. Is CNN afraid of being tagged liberal? Afraid of sinking ratings? CNN, we understand—it’s not easy being green, especially when you’re obsessed with hitting the perfect shade of purple. But get over it.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

We do know that CNN is capable of some self-improvement. The MM report finds that, in contrast to the recent past, “CNN aired no false balance on the scientific basis of climate change while reporting on last week’s events, hosting only guests who accept that climate change is real and manmade. Previously, an analysis from Union of Concerned Scientists found that throughout 2013, CNN hosted eight segments featuring debates on whether or not climate change is happening.”

And all those extra minutes Fox devoted to the topic? Well, no surprise, MM found a “majority of Fox News’ coverage reported on climate week negatively,” mocking the participants and dismissing the science.

See the sneer here:

Read Next: The People’s Climate March was huge, but will it change everything?

Frequently Bought Together?: Paul Ryan’s Book and Amazon’s Excuse for Screwing Authors

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan (AP Photo/Stacy Thacker)

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

We already knew that Amazon has been putting the screws to book publisher Hachette and its authors with hardball business tactics. But now we learn from The New York Times that Amazon may also be playing political hardball, giving special favors to one very special Republican.

Amazon, which controls more than a third of the US book business, and the giant Hachette Book Group have been in a bitter dispute since last spring over the pricing of e-books. Saying it wants to save its customers money, Amazon has demanded that Hachette lower the price of its e-books to $9.99; Hachette has refused, saying it wants to retain the ability to set prices for its own books. So, in a heavy-handed display of power, Amazon has been delaying deliveries and withholding discounts for all books from Hachette—and damaging writers’ careers in the process.

With at least one exception:

Take, for instance, the different treatment Amazon has given two new Hachette books on political themes.

Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.

The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.

Amazon refused to take advance orders for “The Way Forward,” as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than “Sons of Wichita.”

An Amazon spokesman declined to explain why “The Way Forward” was getting special treatment. A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Hachette declined to comment.

Many Hachette writers, most visibly Stephen Colbert, have not declined to comment, and some have formed a group, Authors United, to campaign against Amazon’s tactics. In Monday’s Times, David Streitfeld listed the non-Hachette “literary lions”—from Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera to the estates of Saul Bellow, William Burroughs, John Cheever, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller and Hunter S. Thompson—that have joined Authors United, which is asking the Justice Department to examine Amazon for possible antitrust violations.

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ursula K. Le Guin told Streitfeld. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy.”

And by choosing not to disappear an author who just happens to be the chair of the House Budget Committee, Amazon is not only making friends in high places but sending a dangerous message.

Streitfeld, by the way, has been doing a great job covering this story, a much better job than that of his alma mater, The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Bezos’s fight with Hachette is just the tip of the iceberg, Jim Hightower writes in Alternet. To get Amazon to where it is today

Bezos followed the path mapped by Rockefeller and other 19th-century robber barons: (1) ruthlessly exploit a vast and vulnerable low-wage workforce; (2) extract billions of dollars in government subsidies; and (3) wield every anti-competitive weapon you can find or invent to get what you want from other businesses.

What other online bookstores do customers buy from after viewing this post? For starters, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s and Marketplace. For more, see “ten socially conscious online bookstores.”

UPDATE—Wednesday, Oct. 1, 12:20 pm: I’ve quoted Streitfeld above from his Monday Times piece. But he amended the chronology a bit in a post on Tuesday. He found that Amazon originally did treat Ryan’s book like all Hachette titles, i.e., lousy, refusing to discount it or ship it promptly. But on Aug. 20, Ryan complained about Amazon on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” and even entertained a question about whether some regulations might be in order. Suddenly his book was given the full Amazon discount and customers could receive it immediately. “All Hachette authors are equal, but some are more equal than others,” Streitfeld writes.

 

Read Next: When Will the Justice Department Take On Amazon?

Colbert: ‘The Cocks on Fox’ Are Wrong About ‘Boobs on the Ground’

The Colbert Report

 

Meanwhile, Ann Romney told another Fox gent that talk about a Republican war on women is “ridiculous” and “offensive.”

Bolling later apologized for his comments because, he said, he got “the look” from his wife.

UPDATE: Eric Bolling has apologized again. Meanwhile, the Truman National Security Project wrote an open letter to Fox News, signed by 60 men and women in the armed forces, scorning the “boobs on the ground” comment. And it says, to Bolling, “We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere.”

Read Next: It’s official: watching Fox makes you stupider

Syndicate content