The big stories this year aren’t isolated events, earthquakes that shake the world and subside. They are nexuses of events, which should be teased apart by the press—although much of the time the corporate media seems to go out of its way to avoid context and connection, for fear of seeming biased. Instead it reports on each story as an isolated occurrence.
Real News covers the faultlines, not just the earthquakes. These are five of the biggest stories we’ve covered this year.
The Climate Crisis: The biggest story of the year from here on out is likely to be the climate crisis, which has reached a point of existential danger. But most people don’t see it. We elected a climate denier last year because news outlets cover each event—a flood, a hurricane, a fire—as something isolated and discrete, random chance.
People have done those calculations and it’s not random. “A calculation of the likelihood of three consecutive record-breaking years like we’ve seen now with 2014, 2015, and 2016, in the absence of human-caused climate change, if it were just the random dice of weather and natural climate variability? That sort of event, three consecutive record-breakers should be a one in a million event,” Michael Mann, Director of The Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University, told the Real News. “And what the warming of the planet has done is taken an event like that, that should be a one in a million event and turned it into a, you know, one in 10 event—the sort of event that we expect to happen over the course of a decade or so.”
Mann said that climate change was one of the greatest national security threats we face as a nation—and yet the current administration has pulled us out of the Paris Agreement, all but ensuring that things will get worse.
“The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. You don’t have to tease them out with clever statistical tools,” Mann said. “We can see the impacts of climate change now, playing out on the 24-hour news cycle with our very own eyes.” (Baynard Woods)
Men Are Being Held Accountable for their Actions: Mainstream media had to give this story a lot of attention—because their own anchors and reporters were getting fired. And even though it shows how grim reality is, half of us already knew that—that we are reckoning with it is almost the only good news of the year.
It started on Oct. 5, when the New York Times outed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator. A deafening chorus of #MeToos erupted online, and the hashtag went viral. Millions of women came forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. And unlike most hashtags, this one didn’t get chewed up and spit out by the carnivorous news cycle; it became a global rallying cry. The #MeToo hashtag turned into a #MeToo moment, and then a #MeToo movement.
The idea that virtually all women have dealt with some form of harassment or assault shouldn’t surprise people, although it did (mostly men). But the hashtag’s visibility made the problem impossible to ignore, even by the corporate media, and the online solidarity empowered women to finally begin calling out the men who hurt them.
The craziest part? Men were actually being held accountable. High-profile, powerful men. From Weinstein to Kevin Spacey to Dustin Hoffman to Louis C.K. to Sen. Al Franken—the list really does go on—dozens of influential men in entertainment, media, and politics were suddenly paying a price for their actions.
Unfortunately, Donald “Grab ’em by the Pussy” Trump, who’s been accused of harassing or assaulting more than a dozen women (that we know of), has managed to skirt all accountability, which shows that the movement still has its limits. But its impact is undeniable.
Time magazine awarded Person of the Year to “the Silence Breakers.” Of course, in a tweet, Trump claimed the magazine told him he would “probably” be given the honor, but he “took a pass” because he didn’t want it. A Time spokesperson quickly clarified that Trump was lying. Silence breakers: 1; Groper-in-chief: 0. Let’s see if women can start racking up some more points against the Lecher of the Free World in 2018. (Jess Kamen)
The Failure of the Corporate Democrats: Trump’s first year in office is obviously the giant story of 2017. But the same outlets that failed to provide context during the election, which they covered as a horse race, are still playing the same game—the tax cuts for the rich are portrayed as a “victory for Trump” rather than something that will harm millions of people. They may have sent a few reporters out to Appalachia to talk to some angry white Trump voters and doubled their coverage of Russia, but most major outlets are still trying to imagine that mainstream American politics are OK and that Trump is somehow an aberration, rather than a result of the system.
The Democratic party is now co-opting #Resistance to mean retweeting neocons who are against Trump.
“This was a non-establishment year and the Democrats’ biggest failure, both on the state party level and the national level, is that we refused to hear the cries of the people, the coalition of the forgotten, basically saying, ‘We’re not gonna take this anymore. We mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore. And we’re gonna vote either by not voting, or we’re gonna vote for Mr. Trump,’” Nina Turner told Paul Jay days before the inauguration.
And over the course of the year, the party apparatus has continued to attempt to try to smash its insurgent progressive wing. (Baynard Woods)
The Criminalization of Dissent: On the day of Trump’s inauguration, Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department cordoned off and arrested more than 200 people, 193 of whom will now stand trial. They are all being charged under the federal Riot Act based on the fact that they were wearing black clothes. A few windows were broken as a “black bloc” moved through the city—but to charge hundreds of people with any crime committed at a protest they attend can only be intended to keep people from attending protests.
The case involves thousands of GBs of evidence—data taken from defendants’ cell phones, surveillance cameras, livestream footage, bodycams, and even video taken by sleazeball video editor James O’Keefe.
Two of the people being prosecuted in this case are journalists, but at the same time that corporate media complains every time Jim Acosta doesn’t get called on at a White House press briefing, they largely ignore the plight of Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood. To be clear, everyone, and not just journalists, should be protected by the First Amendment, but it is especially egregious when the TV stars posing as reporters can’t even mention that members of their own profession face decades in prison.
But this case is only part of the larger move to criminalize protest at state houses and police departments around the nation. (Baynard Woods)
The Mainstreaming of Hate: When President Trump failed to condemn the terrorist Nazis who killed Heather Heyer and injured numerous others in Charlottesville, many people in the ruling class were shocked, shocked! And it was shocking—but it was also obvious.
In the months between Charlottesville and the election, we saw numerous profiles pointing out how dapper uber-alt-right idiot Richard Spencer is. The alt-lite internet personalities who aren’t so openly racist scrambled to distance themselves from the overtly fascist Spencer and his ilk—while still acting like everyday racists. Even Steve Bannon sought a little distance from the confederate cosplayers at Charlottesville. But when Buzzfeed printed the emails of former Breitbart provocateur and everyone saw how deeply enmeshed sites like Breitbart were with full-on Nazis, they started to recoil. Robert Mercer, the billionaire partly behind Trump’s ascent, sold his stake in Breitbart to his daughters.
The way that Breitbart and alt-lite celebrities make their extreme compatriots more mainstream is called bridging, and it allowed Breitbart to legitimate ideas of farther-right sites like the Daily Stormer without being tarred by them—which is a perfect description of the role the president has played for the far right. This plays out in everything from judicial appointments to campaign endorsements. And it’s inspiring a new generation of far-right racists around the world. If the right sees itself as a global force, we need to look at it that way as well. (Baynard Woods)
The Transfer of Wealth: The last decades have seen an unprecedented transfer of wealth from everyone else to the rich. A few years ago, Occupy Wall Street briefly focused the attention of corporate media on this transfer with relentless activism against it, but then, because they are so entrenched in the theft itself, the mainstream press abandoned the story (Matt Lauer made $20 million?). The only good thing about Trump and the new tax plan is that it may force people to focus on this great siphoning of money from all of us to the rich. From net neutrality to tax cuts, Trump and the current crop of Republicans are all about making the rich richer. Even war, which the Trump regime seems desperate to get into, especially with Iran, is ultimately about the money. (Baynard Woods)
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