Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Daily | Lefsetz Letter

Facebook skews Republican.

It’s about the money. For insight, I point you to Ben Smith’s article:

“What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump?-Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration. He may have gotten too close.”

The “Daily” is the “New York Times” podcast, that is released per its moniker, daily. It’s supposed to bring you up to speed on what is happening in America that day.

Which is why I rarely listen to it. I read the “Times” cover to cover every day, and check the app incessantly, so what could I possibly learn?


Hiking last night I pulled up Tuesday’s episode,

“The Battle Over the Democratic Party’s Future – How a once low-profile Senate primary in Kentucky reveals a broader ideological challenge for the Democratic Party”

I was stunned this was sponsored by the “Times,” which along with the DNC put a stake in the heart of Bernie Sanders, before events blew a hole in the establishment Democratic perspective.

That’s what this podcast is all about. How Chuck Schumer is putting all his eggs behind Amy McGrath to go up against Mitch McConnell for Senate in Kentucky. You see McGrath is a former Marine, she’s a fund-raising machine, and it’s all about the money, right?

Well, maybe not.

But what is truly important here is how Schumer is pulling the strings, how he’s controlling the makeup of the elected Democratic officials, and how he might be losing that power.

So, McGrath is skating to victory in the primary and then…

George Floyd gets murdered. Protests pop up all over the country, the world. And suddenly, the nobody from nowhere, the African-American from the wrong side of Louisville, Charles Booker, has traction.

McGrath blows it in the debate, because she’s just a figurehead, a place holder, part of the team, what she believes really isn’t that important. Meanwhile, Booker starts eating her alive. Will Booker triumph?

By time I listened to yesterday’s “Daily,” election results were coming in. And, since last night, they’ve only gotten tighter. On the surface, it looks like McGrath will escape, although today her lead is declining, she’s still ahead of Booker 43.9% to 37.6%. But not even half of the vote has been counted, and, there’s the mail-in ballots.

The question is, did people vote early and choose McGrath, the safe candidate, or did they vote late, and switch to Booker?

Although no one will call the race, Jamaal Bowman is killing the well-funded and establishment endorsed Eliot Engel in New York, 61.8% to 34.9%. In other words, are Schumer and the DNC losing control?

It appears so.

You can read the transcript of this podcast by clicking on the page, but you’ve got to listen to it, to hear Jonathan Martin’s voice, it’s a wakeup call, he’s just not reporting, he’s more akin to Paul Revere riding through the countryside.

Conventional wisdom amongst big media, the DNC and insiders, is that the Democrats need to run to the center, but AOC won big last night, against a candidate well-funded by the financial sector. Could it be that the populace, even the voting populace, is farther to the left of not only Biden, but Schumer and Pelosi and…

After all, they haven’t achieved much.

Of course, to a degree their hands are tied, controlling neither the Senate nor the White House, but it turns out they’re not as outraged as the populace, which appears to want blood.

So, after listening to Tuesday’s podcast, I listened to Monday’s:

“How Facebook Is Undermining ‘Black Lives Matter’ – The company publicly supports the racial justice movement. But content on the platform my be compromising the cause.”

Taken in concert with Ben Smith’s article above, you gain new insight into Zuckerberg and his flagship service.

Yes, Ben Smith…the same person who took on the inviolate Ronan Farrow, whose publisher immediately caved when he learned they were going to publish a book by his father, Woody Allen, and demanded it be canceled. The entire New York media intelligentsia was pro-Ronan, and then Ben Smith questioned his reporting and…

Is the “New Yorker” any match for the “Times”? The “New Yorker” gets undeserved respect by those who believe themselves to be intellectuals, it’s often late and out of touch on the issues, and its reach is not that big.

But the “New York Times” abhors bomb-throwers, right?

And then we’ve got this Zuckerberg/Trump article, which is light on facts and heavy on speculation and…it reads more like BuzzFeed, where Smith came from, than the Grey Lady. Could it be that the “Times” is starting to throw off some of its shackles and wake up and live in the present, like in these “Daily” podcasts.”

Now Kevin Roose is not as grave as Jonathan Martin, but he reveals some fascinating bits, like:

Kevin Roose:

“Yeah, I mean, their outreach to Republicans is, in some ways, an attempt to sort of correct this impression that conservatives have, that they are biased against the right, which is not reflected in any of the data. And I’ve actually been looking at this pretty regularly for the past few weeks. There’s this tool called CrowdTangle that you can basically use to pull up the most popular and talked about Facebook posts from across all of Facebook. So yeah, just looking at the most engaged posts from the last 24 hours on Facebook, the first one is from Trump. It’s the video of his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Number two, also by Trump, another picture from his rally. And then you’ve got Franklin Graham, this right-wing evangelist and activist taking issue with Dr. Fauci. You’ve got Hugh Jackman wishing his dad a happy father’s day. That one’s not political. And you’ve got Terrence Williams, who’s a pro-Trump activist. Breitbart has a video of Trump’s rally. The vast majority of these top 10 stories are usually from right-wing media outlets and right-wing politicians.”

Michael Barbaro:

“Is there anything that might be characterized as Democratic, liberal or progressive in that list of the top 10 or so?”

Kevin Roose:

“Almost every day there are one or two posts in the top 10 from more liberal outlets or politicians. But it is predominated by Fox News, by Breitbart, by right-wing news outlets and by President Trump himself.”

So, that’s why Zuckerberg/Facebook is not caving, not editing the president, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS! Zuckerberg doesn’t want to alienate his core audience!

For years, we heard about the tech of these platforms. Facebook moving from desktop to mobile, its algorithms…but those days are passé, now it’s about the content.

This is a huge difference. The platform is secondary to how it is used. And, the platform is very influential, possibly more influential than any other platform extant! So, what is the role of a social media company today, what boundaries should it enact re speech?

This is an especially thorny question in a world where everybody is in their own silo, getting their news from their preferred source, in some cases not even being aware of the other side(s). But despite Cambridge Analytica, despite Roger McNamee waving his hands, there truly has been no discussion in the government about this, it just lets Facebook go its own course, willy-nilly. And now Zuckerberg is cozying up to those in power, the Republicans, to his benefit, but if the Democrats take charge…

So what you’ve got to know is every day the “Daily” is either the number two or three podcast on the Apple chart. Joe Rogan is almost always number one, but there’s little crossover between the two. Rogan built his base on martial arts fans, the “Daily” on news junkies.

But now, unlike in its infancy, the “Daily” is breaking news. And one thing you’ve got to know is the movers and shakers pay attention, and they know the ground is shifting under their feet, but will they question their preconceptions, or double-down, trying to maintain power, maybe squandering control of the government and leaving it in the hands of the Republicans for fear of going too far left?

Don’t underestimate podcasts. For those just interested in numbers, Spotify is on a tear since it doubled-down on the format.

And despite being around for over a decade, we’re still not sure what works. News, mystery, whodunnits, advice, interviews…that’s still shaking out. But one thing for sure is podcasts are in-depth in an era where the bloviators keep telling us everybody’s got a short attention span. That is patently untrue. People love their podcasts, and spend time with them.

Since the “Daily” is daily, it is short. Usually less than half an hour. It is not a burden.

You MUST listen to “”The Battle Over the Democratic Party’s Future.” Because this is not theoretical, this is what is happening now. We’re fighting over the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and those presently in power are inured to antique structures and believe that money always beats hearts and minds, but yesterday that didn’t prove true.

This is the inside game. If you want to truly talk politics, listen.

But in any event, VOTE!


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