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Whitaker Must Recuse


More info after headlines on Matthew Whitaker overseeing the Russia investigation. Also discussion of Trump’s motives for removing Sessions.


The mass protests have officially been activated now that Sessions has been removed from the Justice Department.
This is actually happening now. We have to show up. Be peaceful, be clear with our demands, and be firm. Donald Trump is trying to stop the investigation into interference in the 2016 election. These are not the actions of an innocent man.
The main demand of the protest is for Acting Attorney General Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and keep Deputy AG Rosenstein in charge of oversight. We just want the investigation to be completed without interference.
Whitaker must recuse.
When: Today, November 8 2018, at 5 p.m.
Where: Austin City Hall (301 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701)

What Can We Do About Rising Fascism in America?


Before you start reading, I don’t know. I’m just guessing. And I’m not going to start by defining fascism. Go look it up if you don’t think it’s happening.

If you’re reading this and you think I’m wrong, tell me. Argue with me. I would love to be wrong about this. But right now, we’ve got full-fledged white nationalists in the White House and I’ve seen more proof than I thought would be necessary for my fellow Americans to realize how dangerous fascism is.

I want to share some words from my personal heroes in American history. These are people whose actions I admire, who I look up to and find resonance with… the kind of people I always knew I should aspire to emulate if I ever found myself in similar circumstances.

These are those circumstances.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has been someone I admired intensely since I first heard him speak. Being a child raised in the American public school system was the perfect setting to understand how vital it is to provide equality of opportunity to people here. I was just a kid in a classroom, but learning about the Civil Rights Movement made me realize that a lot of other people fought and died to put their kids in American public schools.

Obviously that’s not the only thing the Civil Rights Movement was about, but it’s something that stuck with me as a kid, made me appreciate the opportunity to educate myself in a different way. And it made me realize that people like MLK were on one side of the fight, and people with hateful, racist ideas were on the other.

Part of America’s fundamental problem with race is that’s it’s like a childhood trauma we never recovered from or healed properly. Hundreds of years of slavery led to the Civil War, and the wounds have festered ever since. Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 put the pro-slavery Andrew Johnson in power, who turned what could have been a successful Reconstruction of post-slavery America into the Jim Crow era. (This led to the first impeachment of a US President in history, but Johnson was found “not guilty” when put on trial in the Senate by only one vote.) Laws enforcing racial segregation were enforced until the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

100 years. How different would America look if those 100 years had been spent recovering from slavery instead of remaining in denial of the fact that all people deserve an opportunity to live up to their highest ideals? This is part of the ugly truth of American history, the part we don’t like to see. But it’s essential to understand that racism in this country wasn’t solved when the slaves were freed, wasn’t solved when the Civil Rights Act passed, wasn’t solved when America elected our first black President.

Racism is right here, it always has been, and it’s our responsibility to as Americans to recognize it and fight against it.

This quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. comes from his Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which MLK addresses criticism of his efforts to stir up civil disobedience in order to address unjust segregation laws. Some people felt he was being impatient, creating chaos and disorder when he should simply have waited for things to improve on their own.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability… The time is always ripe to do right.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963

There is no better time to stand up than right now. We have to protest. Keep yourself informed, and figure out what news sources you can trust. (My personal favorite is Democracy Now!) And vote against Republicans in November because that’s the only way any sort of legal action against Trump is going to have teeth. We have to vote people into power who will legitimately try to help this country, and in my opinion that’s the populist left–people like Bernie Sanders who want to make positive changes for working families instead of giving money to corporations and billionaires.

This conflict of capitalism–the poor vs the rich–is another old, festering wound in this country, which leads me to my next hero: another American I have a fierce admiration for is Eugene Debs. You may or may not have heard of him. He was the candidate for President of the United States from 1900-1920 of the Socialist Party, and he was jailed for making an anti-war speech.

“In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.”
― Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918
Debs said this 100 years ago, and here we are again with Trump: a new tyrant, another deceiver wrapping himself in the flag with a Bible in hand as he tells the people who the real patriots are while he exploits his power.
One of the things I like most about Debs was his insistence that, despite being a figurehead for labor rights, he didn’t consider himself a leader and rejected the idea that one was even necessary:
“I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”
― Eugene V. Debs, 1906
Debs didn’t want to lead the people, he wanted them to lead themselves.

There were others, too, throughout our history who perhaps should have been in charge but never found their way to the presidency, and our country suffers for it.
Henry Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States during FDR’s second term from 1941-45. Unfortunately, during FDR’s third term Harry S. Truman was picked as VP and became President when FDR died. This choice was at a crucial turning point in our history, very similar to the circumstances of Johnson’s succession over Lincoln and the resulting failure of Reconstruction.

Democratic party leaders knew that FDR’s health was failing and that the next Vice President would likely become President. They didn’t like Wallace because he was too progressive and they didn’t think they could control him, so they hatched a plan to get Roosevelt to pick someone they liked better as VP: Truman.

Instead of getting a strong supporter of FDR’s New Deal who would have carried forward his legacy (and who even seemed more progressive than FDR himself) we got the very middle-of-the-road Harry Truman. He was a safe, moderate Democrat who continued the New Deal programs but lacked the passion for humanity that someone like Henry Wallace felt. I see Truman’s presidency as a missed opportunity for American progress.

“Men and women can never be really free until they have plenty to eat, and time and ability to read and think and talk things over.”
― Henry Wallace, 1942

Wallace fought against fascism in his time, too–against the Nazis and against American fascists at home. “America First” is a slogan deeply rooted in fascist ideology, and the fact that we’re hearing it again from Trump is no coincidence.

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism.”

― Henry Wallace, 1944

Sound familiar? Here’s a political cartoon written by Dr. Seuss during WWII, protesting the “America First” campaign to turn away refugee children fleeing the Holocaust.


vote.gov to register for November.

Protest June 30.

And That’s Why the “Intellectual Dark Web” Is A Ridiculous Group of People

We Demand to Be Taken Seriously

Intellectual Dark Web? What the hell is that?

I’m confused, too. I kept hearing this term all week and finally sat down to look into it. The “Intellectual Dark Web,” or IDW as they’ve taken to calling themselves, are a bunch of well-funded political and social commentators who are trying to muddy the waters between “left” and “right” politics. This article from the New York Times was my first introduction to the group.

Among the ranks of the “IDW” (which sounds like a bunch of wannabe super-villains to me): Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, Douglas Murray, James Damore, and Eric and Bret Weinstein.

Most of these people are firmly on the conservative side of the spectrum when it comes to economic issues, but tend to be more socially liberal. Dave Rubin is who I think is basically the ringleader of the whole thing (even though it seems to be a loosely affiliated group without firm boundaries). If you don’t know who he is, let me explain.

Dave tries to pretend he’s on the left by calling himself a “classical liberal” and speaking generally in ways that centrists and leftists might find appealing. He pretends that his ideas were being suppressed on the left by horrible nasty SJWs and that’s where he gets his whole “I just want a free and open exchange of ideas” shpiel. In reality, he’s funded by the Koch brothers to push right-wing libertarian ideas in a setting that liberals find appealing. Actual leftists just disagree with these ideas, and that’s why Dave lost credibility among them.

(Youtube) Sam Seder’s Majority Report: Who Needs Patreon When You Have the Koch Brothers?

(Youtube) The Progressive Voice: Dave Rubin Before Selling Out to Koch Brothers Vs After

This “Intellectual Dark Web” just smacks of something that Dave Rubin thinks is really cool and edgy. Frankly, it’s kind of pathetic to pretend that he’s having his ideas suppressed when in reality it’s mostly valid criticism of his attempt to mask right-wing ideology with left-wing candy-coating. Sure, there are leftists who take the SJW speech-police thing too far, but I’m much more worried about the ACTUAL right-wing takeover of all three branches of our government than people protesting unpopular opinions on a college campus.

Where’s the free and open exchange of ideas with actual leftists? Why is it only people like Peterson, Shapiro, Harris, and fucking Seb Gorka? Sam Seder has invited you repeatedly onto the Majority Report to have an honest discussion and clear the air about all of this, but Dave Rubin is afraid to do it because he might have to have an actual discussion instead of nodding along to whatever his guests say.

It’s because Dave Rubin is a hack. The only free speech he gets upset over is right-wing free speech. And this whole IDW thing is just an attempt to rebrand as a ragtag underdog group fighting for free speech against the terrible might of leftist repression.

Give me a break. Call in to the Majority Report and prove me wrong, Dave!

I’m (Relatively) Proud to Be an American

I wrote this a year ago, updated and expanded it because it still feels true.

I just can’t say that I’m 100% there anymore. At some point in my life, I’d have said yes enthusiastically. I was the first in my family to be born on U.S. soil, which means technically I could be President someday. I thought that was really cool as a kid. But living here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. has started to wear on me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate being here—despite many flaws, I love my country and (most of) the people in it.

But let’s be honest, there are some real assholes here. Tremendous, orange-tinted, eternally bullshit-spewing assholes. Believe me.

Yeah, we all know who I’m talking about. Sorry to put that image in your head, but it truly disgusts me that this man is our President and I wanted to share a bit of that feeling. He is the culmination of decades of corruption in this country. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

First, let’s go back to the beginning.

I was born the summer of 1989 in Redwood City, California. It was the year the Berlin wall fell. The year the Tianenmen Square protests in China became the Tianenmen Square Massacre. The year before the collapse of the USSR and the winding down of the Cold War. George Bush Senior took over for President Reagan, and started the War on Drugs that summer. Ted Bundy was executed. The Exxon-Valdez ran aground in Alaska. Disney World had its grand opening. The Michael Keaton Batman movie came out. I think that covers pretty much everything truly important.

Anyway, I was the second of four kids. I lived in California until I was four years old. We moved to Texas, where I grew up in what you’d probably call the middle class—family of six, stable home life, happy childhood, yada yada. My parents earned enough to buy their own business here in Austin and have been running it ever since.

My brothers and I went to a public elementary school right down the street from our house, close enough to walk or ride a bike. And every day in that school, we’d all stand up and put our right hand over our heart and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. If you went to school here, you’re probably already reciting it in your head. But for the uninitiated, it goes like this:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Complete with the random capitalized letters and all. I mean, come on—why don’t Liberty and Justice get one? #feminism am I doing this right?

It’s a bit spooky, the effect that these words have on me even now, as an adult. I loved my childhood, and this brings me right back there, standing up with the teacher and the other kids in my class, all of us just starting our day together with this weird, patriotic mantra staring up at a flag together.

To me, probably until early high school, there was a certain purity, a luster to America that I don’t see anymore. Or maybe I just couldn’t see what was really there and it revealed itself as I grew up. Either way, I used to have the sense that America could do no wrong, that our motives were always wholesome and worthy. We could trust that the people in charge generally had our interests at heart.

I really wish I had known better.

As a kid, those words in the pledge meant something to me. Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all. We were—all of us, the students, the teachers, the principal, the school district, the state, the whole country—working together for something pure and powerful and good.

But now I can hear the words ring hollow. I don’t see liberty and justice for all in this country. And looking back on our history, this is the way it’s been for decades now. The rich get richer, and the poor—well, we all heard what Bernie had to say, but I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t keep on saying it. Wealth inequality in this country is out of control and healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. Therefore, we should tax the truly rich, the top fraction of a percent of the population, more in order to solve our healthcare crisis.

2016 left behind in its wake a bunch of ifs, buts, and maybes. It could have been different, but it’s not. It’s 2018, and instead of the most popular politician in the country leading us forward, we have a raging hemorrhoidal asshole shitting all over everyone but his rich friends (which includes, for some reason, murderous dictators from multiple different countries).

But besides the problem of our President, America is locked in a perpetual cycle of War on Terror. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. Somalia. Yemen. Pakistan. In the name of eliminating terrorism, we’re actively bombing people in at least seven different countries around the world, killing civilians nearly every time, which only creates more terrorists. And we’re selling arms to countries like Saudi Arabia so they can bomb civilians too.

We started down this path before 9/11, but that was the main event that still defines our present. Here’s the venerable Hunter S. Thompson, from the day after the towers fell:

“Boom! Boom! Just like that. The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now ― with somebody ― and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.”

We’re still in Afghanistan. Still in Iraq.

And then there’s the War on Drugs filling our prisons. 1% of our population behind bars. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and political donations (bribes) corrupting our democracy. For-profit prisons getting rich off taxpayers. Privatized healthcare sucking dry as many people as it can.

And motherfucking turtle-faced reptile-person Mitch McConnell. Actual lobster Neil Gorsuch is sitting in Merrick Garland’s stolen Supreme Court seat because of McConnell.

Damn, I really never wanted to care about politics. And as someone who wanted to be a writer because it was a good way of getting out of talking to people, the last thing I ever wanted was to be involved in public debate. I always felt like someone else who’s better at it would do something.

That’s the trap I guess we all fall into. But there is no one else. It’s just us.

You’ve got a voice. Speak up. Vote.

If you’re not registered, go do it right now: vote.gov

And ask your friends, your family, your co-workers, your teachers, everyone you can think of: Are you registered? No? You can do it right now: vote.gov

Michael Cohen Has Never Been to Prague in His Life, Except for that One Time

Confirming another part of the Michael Steele Trump-Russia dossier, Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016.

“The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.”

Oh wait, nothing matters anymore. Nevermind!

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“The Star Pirate’s Folly” Started with Music (The Decemberists)

The Mariner’s Revenge Song

The Star Pirate’s Folly started with a song I first heard in high school over 10 years ago. My posts are getting all nostalgic for simpler times, I guess. My older brother and I used to drive in to school together in a used ’93 Chrysler Sebring with maroon-eggplant colored paint and grey, fake leather seats that had cracked and split from too many Texas summers. I rode shotgun, and he picked the music (mostly).

It was one of those early summer mornings before the sun had time to bake the cool air away. He told me I had to listen to this song, and to the lyrics in particular. It’s a pretty long song, and when we got to the parking lot it was still playing, so we stayed in the car and let the music keep playing even though it meant risking a tardy in first period.

Music: The Decemberists

Artist: Arthur Janz

Impact on The Star Pirate’s Folly

If you listened to “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” and you’ve read the book, you probably saw a lot of parallels. What I tried to do when creating this series was mash together a ton of my favorite things into one story and hope that it came out different enough from any one of them that it would feel like something new while keeping intact the ingredients that inspired me in the first place.

I wanted something like… a female version of the main character from “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” living out the story of Jim from Treasure Island, but set in a universe that borrows from Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars series, and Ender’s Game while also making sure there are plenty of pirates, references to Greek mythology,  some American history–you get the idea.

The worldbuilding aspect is a lot of fun for me, outlining a new idea or thinking of new details I can add to my universe. As a kid reading fantasy and sci-fi books, I always looked up to the authors who could create something unique and impactful. Certain things have always stuck with me, like the beginning of the lunar colonists’ revolt in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which, btw, is a fucking awesome title). Or Ender’s team of Dragons, fighting against a rigged game. The mice of Redwall Abbey defending their walls from Cluny the Scourge and his horde.

I tried to create moments in The Star Pirate’s Folly that combined my understanding of our own world with the specific details of my world and the emotional journey of a broken girl trying to hold onto her sanity.

Did I succeed? I guess we’ll find out. 🙂

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Creating New Stories (with Orson Scott Card)

When I was 16 or 17, my parents bought me an amazing birthday present: I got a plane ticket, and admission into a writers’ workshop in Utah taught by Orson Scott Card.

For me, that was nearly half my life ago! Crazy. Anyway, my dad went with me over the summer and stayed at a nearby hotel in Salt Lake City while I was in the workshop. I remember being one of the youngest people there, but the class had a wide variety of ages. The workshop took place in a large meeting room with rows of white plastic tables–it may have been a classroom, I can’t remember.

Orson Scott Card has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Ender’s Game. I’d seen his face on the back cover of my books, but seeing him in person brought him to life for me. He had short-cropped gray hair and a trimmed goatee flecked with white. Rimless glasses rested on his nose. Throughout the course he stayed very energetic and animated, though I did get the impression that he felt a bit ill at ease in front of the “class.” He reminded me of an English teacher I had in high school.

We started with the basics of creating new stories, since the point of the workshop was for all of us to write a fresh story and have others critique it. Card stood at the front of the class and said he was going to demonstrate just how easy it was to create new ideas for a story by creating a crowdsourced outline with our class. Let me see if I can remember how this went.

Basically, Card asked for suggestions from us for characters, then for motivations for those characters, and then for ways in which we could stop the character from getting what they want. These are the basics of story: people with needs to be satisfied, and the ways in which they are prevented from doing so.

As long as these basic ingredients are there for a story, you will have a character with goals to achieve and setbacks to work against. Even if this is just a turtle stuck in a ditch, slowly working step by step toward freedom, nearly cresting the edge–when suddenly a mighty crack splits the air and a thunderstorm unleashes a torrent of rain that causes the turtle to slide back into the muddy ditch.

It’s not the most interesting story, but it’s got the basic movements of a character –> fulfilling needs –> while encountering setbacks.

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What Happened at Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” Rally Last Year?

This is a VICE News interview with Christopher Cantwell, a speaker from the alt-right “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville protesting the removal of a Jim Crow era Confederate statue. The whole video is really worth watching–the chants of “blood and soil,” the tiki-torch-bearing white supremacists, all of it is truly unsettling.

Cantwell is a self-proclaimed fascist who by his own admission seeks to normalize racism as part of his long-term goal to create a pure Anglo ethno state free of African-Americans, Jews, and non-white immigrants. VICE News interviewed him after a neo-Nazi terrorist attending the rally drove his car intentionally into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Please watch this interview, because this is going to get worse before it gets any better. I transcribed it below if you don’t want to watch the video.

The thing that we need to understand about fascism is that a key part of the definition is physical, violent suppression of the opposition. They see the use of force as another tool in the toolbox of getting what they want–in fact, it’s the only way to get what they want, since Cantwell is literally calling for the forced removal of all non-whites from his “ethno-state.”

Trump supporters marched shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists and Nazis whose goal is the forced mass removal of non-whites from the US.

Cantwell: “I’d say it was worth it. We knew we were gonna meet a lot of resistance. The fact that nobody on our side died, I’d go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly, I think is a plus for us. And I think that we showed our rivals that we won’t be cowed.”

Vice: “Can you describe what the video appears to show?”

Cantwell: “The video appears to show someone striking that vehicle. When these animals attacked him again, and he saw no way to get away from them except to hit the gas. And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don’t pay attention, they couldn’t just get out of the way of this car. And some people got hurt, and that’s unfortunate.”

Vice: “So you think it was justified.”

Cantwell: “I think it was more than justified. I can’t believe–the amount of restraint our people showed out there, I think was astounding.”

Vice: “What do you think this means for the next alt-right protest?”

Cantwell: “Well, I think it’s gonna be tough to top, but we’re up for the challenge.”

Vice: “Wait, why? Tough to top? I mean, someone died.”

Cantwell: “I think that a lot more people are gonna die before we’re done here, frankly. People die every day, right?”

Vice: “But not like of a heart attack. I mean violent death.”

Cantwell: “People die violent deaths all the time. This is part of the reason we want an ethno-state, right? So, the blacks are killing each other in staggering numbers from coast to coast. We don’t really want to have a part of that anymore, and so the fact that they resist us when we say, hey we want our homeland, it’s not shocking to me. These people want violence, and the right is just meeting market demand.”

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Building A Patreon Community

Preemptive thank you to future patrons! You all rule.

1 The Star Pirate's Folly patreon banner insert

Today, I started a Patreon page. Here’s my spiel:

My name is James Hanlon and I’m a science fiction author. My first book, The Star Pirate’s Folly, is a dark, young adult adventure novel that blends the classic story of Treasure Island with science fiction like Ender’s Game and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. If that sounds cool to you, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon!

I’ll be writing the rest of this three-part series and posting each chapter’s first draft online as I write it. There are various avenues where you can get it for free, but I am here to ask that you join my Patreon community for as little as $1 per month and help me grow one humble book into a career I can build my life around.

It’s no small thing, I know!

The more patrons I get, the more money I can afford to spend on cover art, editing, and advertising. Every patron will be able to give input on the story as it goes along, so if there’s something that you really love, really hate, or really want to see, you can let me know! I want to write the books that you want to read.

I am focused on building a community with the overall goal of reaching 1,000 “true fans” who love my work and want to support my writing in the future. I want to make a living doing what I love, so if you can find it in your heart (wallet) to become a patron even for just $1, or to buy a copy of my books and stories, I will forever be grateful.

Thank you all.


Journalists From Sinclair Broadcast Group Fire Back

Vox: We’re journalists at a Sinclair news station. We’re pissed.

Some journalists from a Sinclair-owned news station have anonymously written a group letter airing some of their grievances over the controversial must-read segments that went viral from an edited Deadspin video which showed anchors at 45 local news stations simultaneously reciting their scripts.

“We are journalists at one of the 193 local television stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a media corporation with conservative and pro-Trump ties. We are writing this essay because we’re disturbed by the editorial direction our leadership is taking, and we want people to know that many of us at Sinclair reject what our company is doing. We’re writing this anonymously because if we spoke out under our names, we could lose our jobs — and potentially owe money to Sinclair.”

These journalists’ jobs are held hostage to force them into spreading propaganda. In order to continue providing for themselves and their families, they have to do what their bosses tell them. Everyone working for Sinclair is essentially facing the same threat: obey, or be punished. And with Sinclair trying to buy up even more stations to expand its reach–possibly even double it–they are about to lower that same guillotine over even more news workers. Say what we tell you to say, or else.

I’m torn on how to feel about the employees of Sinclair who are put in this position. On one hand, I want them all to refuse, resign, whatever they have to do in order to stop the spread of this blatant propaganda on behalf of the Trump administration. But on the other hand, that’s a huge sacrifice for any of these people to make–they would be putting themselves and their families at risk, possibly even facing expensive legal repercussions.

There’s the crowdfunding route–they make a public display of quitting and hope that the public backs them up to pay their legal bills and support them if they can’t find another job. This has worked in the past for some, but it’s putting a lot of trust in what must feel like a moonshot from someone forced into that decision.

What we need to solve the root problem is to bring back the Fairness Doctrine:

The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented the policy from the Federal Register in August 2011.

Obviously, there’s a lot of room for interpretation with “controversial issues of public importance” and “honest, equitable, and balanced.” But in a practical sense, this law meant that if you were going to use public airwaves, you had to do it in the public interest and in a balanced way:

“The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials. The Fairness Doctrine simply prohibited stations from broadcasting from a single perspective, day after day, without presenting opposing views.”

Oddly enough, in the 2005 article I just referenced looking for information on the Fairness Doctrine, Sinclair Broadcast Group rears its ugly head again:

“When the Sinclair Broadcast Group retreated from pre-election plans to force its 62 television stations to preempt prime-time programming in favor of airing the blatantly anti-John Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the reversal wasn’t triggered by a concern for fairness: Sinclair back-pedaled because its stock was tanking. The staunchly conservative broadcaster’s plan had provoked calls for sponsor boycotts, and Wall Street saw a company that was putting politics ahead of profits. Sinclair’s stock declined by nearly 17 percent before the company announced it would air a somewhat more balanced news program in place of the documentary.”

Since we don’t have the Fairness Doctrine, the only thing we can rely on to change Sinclair’s mind is their profits. A boycott by their advertisers would achieve that:

“If companies decide they are no longer willing to advertise on a propaganda platform, this could have an impact. Look at Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host and alleged serial sexual abuser who was fired after an advertiser boycott last year. In the midst of the boycott, O’Reilly went on Easter vacation with his family and never reappeared on air. It’s happening at Fox again now: Currently, Laura Ingraham, the Fox New host whose show was dropped by at least 15 advertisers after she attacked Parkland shooting survivors, is also on “Easter vacation” with her family.”

There are problems with this strategy too, though, because advertisers are unlikely to respond as quickly or aggressively to a boycott of Sinclair as an entire media company:  “Sinclair’s fragmented, inherently local structure … makes it much more difficult to rally a boycott against than a national program like Laura Ingraham’s ‘The Ingraham Angle,’ for instance.” So the pushback against Sinclair will have to be very strong for advertisers to take notice and join a boycott. For now, it seems they’re waiting to see how the public reacts:

“Specifically, advertisers are paying close attention to channels in more liberal markets such as KOMO-TV in Seattle (whose reporters too have been more critical of the Sinclair mandate), according to another local TV buyer. They are watching ratings closely in these markets to see if these mandated right-leaning scripts at all have an impact on the number of people that tune in. If the numbers take a hit, advertisers may take the plunge.”

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