Politics: Too good to check

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Netflix and Hulu. © (AP) Netflix and Hulu.

It seems these days, the only interests being served by the press are "self" and "special."

The "public" doesn't even appear to be a consideration.

Hulu refused recently, per established company policy, to air political ads produced by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Governors Association. The ads, which focus on inherently controversial subjects, including abortion, gun control, and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, were accepted by other Disney-affiliated groups, just not Hulu.

In response to Hulu’s editorial decision, the Democratic groups went to the Washington Post and accused the streaming giant of engaging in a pernicious campaign of political censorship.

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“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country,” the executive directors of the Democratic groups alleged in a statement to the newspaper. “Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ agenda on issues like abortion — and Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people by blocking voters from learning the truth about the GOP record or denying these issues from even being discussed.”

The Washington Post then published a nearly 1,300-word news article detailing Hulu’s refusal to air the Democratic-produced ads, characterizing the matter as both unprecedented and, frankly, a little shocking.

“The Disney-backed streaming service Hulu is refusing to run political ads on central themes of Democratic midterm campaigns, including abortion and guns, prompting fury from the party’s candidates and leaders,” reads the report's opening lines. The story adds for good measure, “The blocked ads do not use violent or jarring imagery.”

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee then shared the Washington Post article on social media, alleging, “[Hulu] is REJECTING our ads calling out GOP attacks on abortion access and gun safety. Their shady policies amount to outrageous political censorship. Americans deserve to know the truth about these issues, and Hulu has no right to block it.”

Following the publication of the Washington Post report, Hulu caved, announcing it would make an exception for at least some of the Democratic-produced ads.

“Hulu contacted [the campaign of New York Democratic congressional candidate Suraj Patel] Monday afternoon,” the Washington Post reported, “after the initial publication of this story that morning, to tell him that his original ad would be accepted, including the images of violence on Jan. 6.”

Patel had complained earlier in a statement to Hulu — a statement his campaign conveniently made available to the left-wing blog Jezebel — that, “To not discuss these topics in my campaign ad is to not address the most important issues facing the United States. Your ban on mobilization messaging has a perverse effect on Democracy.”

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After Hulu’s about-face, Patel took a victory lap, saying, “I want to thank Hulu for allowing Americans to know about the most pressing issues of our day. Sometimes a simple conversation can make change.”

Now is a good time to remind everyone that Hulu has a long-standing policy against airing ads featuring “content that takes a position on a controversial issue of public importance (e.g. social issues)” and “any content that directly links to content that contains any of the above prohibited content.” Hulu makes case-by-case exceptions for “political ads” depending on the content. As to what “content” may run afoul of the group’s advertising guidelines, see the above. The Washington Post even notes this in its reporting!

There was nothing controversial about Hulu’s initial call. The group has an established policy against airing controversial ads, even political ones. Democrats merely demanded an exception for their gun control, abortion, and Jan. 6 TV spots, the Washington Post and others characterized the issue as a matter of political censorship, and Hulu eventually submitted to the pressure. Now, Democrats can enjoy an actually unprecedented advertising carve-out from a major streaming platform.

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This wasn’t news reporting by the Washington Post and others. These stories weren't intended for the public interest. This was a media pressure campaign, spearheaded by Democratic operatives, and the Washington Post and others were apparently all too happy to play along.

Nice alliance you all have there.

Oh, speaking of self-serving reporting: Meet the new Gawker! It’s just like the old Gawker, except with fewer jokes, shoddier writing, and sloppier “reporting!”

The left-wing news site may soon find itself in legal trouble (again!) following the publication of a hit piece that appears to clear the high bar for “actual malice.”

“Thomas Chatterton Williams Pals With Fellow Losers at Alex Jones Premiere,” read the headline of an article published on July 26.

The problem with the article? The target of the piece, the Atlantic’s Thomas Chatterton Williams, an outspoken proponent of free speech and a fierce critic of so-called cancel culture, says he attended no such premiere.

The Gawker story managed to get even the most basic facts wrong. Its opening lines read, “University of Austin professor Thomas Chatterton Williams had a busy night in Austin, Texas this past Saturday.”

Chatterton Williams is not a professor at the University of Austin. He’s a professor at Bard College.

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“The Harper’s letter author took a break from teaching these boys about Black male autobiography to snap some Instagram Stories from the premiere of Alex’s War,” the Gawker article added, “[a documentary that] combines archival footage and interviews with the Infowars host and Sandy Hook truther into, per the description, ‘a searching and human character study of one of America's most infamous, charismatic and divisive public figures.’”

The film, the article continued, “seems to have found an audience among some of America’s best and brightest, including Glenn Greenwald, Hotep Jesus, Ice Poseidon, and Mike Cernovich, all of whom evidently enjoyed a nice night out at the movies. Chatterton Williams has had some trouble with friends in the past, so it’s great that he has found a community of like-minded companions.”

Chatterton Williams, for his part, says he wasn’t even in Austin, Texas, on the evening the movie showed.

“I never heard of this movie until now and wasn’t anywhere near Austin at the premiere,” he said. “This article is insane and just a lie. [Gawker] has been harassing me for months now, and I just ignore it because it’s not real journalism, but this has to be retracted.”

Gawker scrambled, moving quickly to “update” the story to reflect its main target had not, in fact, attended the premiere.

“Update,” read a short-lived editor’s note, “On Monday, we were tipped off that Thomas Chatterton Williams attended this premiere. Unfortunately, we were wrong. We apologize for the error.”

Weirdly enough, not a single word in the story’s body was changed, most likely because removing mentions of Chatterton Williams would remove the article’s entire reason for existing.

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Later, Gawker retracted the story entirely. Where once there was a brief hit piece, there is nothing now except for a note that reads, “Gawker previously published an erroneous article about Thomas Chatterton Williams. As a result, we’ve removed the piece. We regret the error.”

Chatterton Williams has remarked since the publication of the erroneous article that he has the “appetite and inclination to pursue legal options” against Gawker, which has published a not-insignificant number of stories targeting him specifically. The volume of anti-Chatterton Williams stories at Gawker isn’t a mistake, by the way. It’s by editorial design.

Gawker editor Leah Finnegan “has sent her staff guidelines, under the heading ‘Gawker Religious Text,’ which offer a pretty predictable set of targets," the New York Times reports. "The category of ‘people we can make fun of’ includes the obvious targets — celebrities, royals and politicians, the New York Times — as well as left-wing Twitter bugaboos Glenn Greenwald and Thomas Chatterton Williams.”

In other words, it’s in writing that Gawker targets Chatterton Williams specifically. To print a demonstrably false article defaming him as a fan of notorious right-wing troll Alex Jones, then, could provide Chatterton Williams with a legitimate defamation case.

As the Dispatch’s David French, himself a longtime attorney, put it, “Admitting you target certain people, then printing a plainly and easily-provably false piece, is certainly one way to cross the ‘actual malice’ threshold for defamation of public figures.”

This is what happens when an entire newsroom has an ax to grind, and the public interest doesn't even come into question.

Becket Adams is the program director of the National Journalism Center.

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Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Blog Contributors, Opinion, Media, Media Bias, Woke culture, Leftism

Original Author: Becket Adams

Original Location: Too good to check

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