Cable News Network (1980- ), better known as CNN, is one of the three main cable news stations in the US. Although it has been rightly called the Clinton News Network, it is not as nakedly partisan as MSNBC (Democratic) or Fox News (Republican).

  • Ownership: Time Warner, a top donor to Hillary Clinton.
  • Location: Time Warner Center in New York.
  • Political viewpoint: White Liberal, very much in the vein of Hillary Clinton.
  • Viewers: 1.06 million daily viewers (2017), well behind MSNBC (1.65m) and Fox News (2.35m), but more than double its numbers five years ago, thanks mainly to Donald Trump.
  • Fans: part of the media diets of Terry McMillan and President Trump.
  • Trust: As of July 3rd 2017, 91% of Democrats trust CNN more than President Trump, but only 9% of Republicans do.

Some tropes I have noticed:

  • He said, she said – stories are often framed as two opposing points of views. This allows CNN to avoid coming down on one side or the other and therefore seem “fair”. It also lends itself easily to:
  • panel discussions – CNN will present a story and then get several talking heads to comment on it. The range of opinions is somewhat broader than on MSNBC or Fox News, which are often little more than partisan echo chambers. But much of CNN’s discussion is screwed up by:
  • paid trolls – CNN seems to have a Jerry Springer model of television: put people together on stage who you know will get into an argument. They pay people like Jeffrey Lord (pictured) who they know will troll the discussion rather than offer any kind of serious insight.
  • Kellyanne Conway – a Trump adviser who they repeatedly have on even though she lies and avoids answering questions.
  • tweetology – they go nuts over Trump’s tweets.
  • Broken Africa – war, famine, poverty, etc, seem to be only stories in Africa worth covering.
  • Islamophobia – most of the killers they feature seem to be Muslims who kill White people.
  • US imperialism – CNN was a big cheerleader for the Gulf War and the Iraq War.
  • Disappearing Indian Trick – Did they even cover #NoDAPL?
  • Black pathologies – more common before 2012?
  • Missing White Women – common before 2006. They got heat for only covering missing people who were pretty White women, so it seems they stopped covering missing people altogether.


  • Black Americans: Unlike Fox News, MSNBC or RT, CNN has a regular evening news show hosted by an actual Black person, Don Lemon. He is a coon, but he does regularly have on intelligent Black (Liberal) people who talk about more than just “Black” issues. That puts him leagues beyond anything else on US television, news-wise, outside of Trevor Noah and Roland Martin. But that is not saying much.
  • The 2016 election: Even though CNN favoured Hillary Clinton at the political level, they wound up giving Donald Trump way more free television time because he was great for ratings. So great, in fact, that at one point they showed his empty podium live rather than a speech Bernie Sanders was giving at the same time.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: Google Images (for images), Axios (poll), Variety (audience size), Vox (compared to political satire).

See also:


East St Louis riots

The East St Louis riots (1917) took place across the Mississippi River from St Louis. W.E.B. Du Bois called it the Massacre of East St Louis. It left eight Whites and 39 to 200 Blacks dead. Nearly half of the city’s Blacks were burned out of house and home.

The worst of the riots took place on May 28th and July 2nd. Both times it became a free-for-all of White violence against Blacks, touched off by a report of Black-on-White violence. Both times the governor had to send in the National Guard to restore order.

East St Louis: Because of the First World War there was plenty of work in East St Louis for unskilled labourers.

  • For Blacks, coming from the Klan violence and low pay of the Jim Crow South, East St Louis offered good pay and friendly Whites. But:
  • The White working class, in the form of labour unions and the Democratic Party, saw Black workers as a threat: Blacks voted Republican and were used as strike-breakers. But what made Blacks such great strike-breakers was that the labour unions would not let them join – because they were Black!

On May 28th the labour unions marched on city hall, which led to the first riot. But the city did nothing about it and a few weeks after the National Guard left violence broke out again, on July 2nd, only this time it was worse.

Street after street the massacre unfolded. Blacks were burned, hanged, shot, stoned, bricked, beheaded, beaten, clubbed, both male and female, both the living and the dead. They were pulled off of trams. Those who hid in their homes were burned out and then shot. It was not just White men who took part in the violence, so did White women and White children. So did some of the police and the National Guard!

The National Guard disarmed many Blacks but few Whites.

Inferno: About ten blocks of Black homes and businesses were on fire. So was a school and a church.

When Blacks tried to flee across the bridge to St Louis, the police shut down the bridge. When Blacks tried to swim across the river, Whites shot at them.

In St Louis you could hear the screaming and gunshots and see the horizon glowing.

The September 1917 issue of the Crisis, the NAACP magazine, is full of horrifying accounts by eyewitnesses and the press, stuff like:

“They went in small groups, there was little leadership, and there was a horribly cool deliberateness and a spirit of fun about it.”

“Girls with blood on their stockings helped to kick in what had been black faces of the corpses on the street.”

“The mob seized a colored woman’s baby and threw it into the fire. The woman was then shot and thrown in.”

One 11-year-old girl who lived through the riots would later recall:

“The very idea of America makes me shake and tremble and gives me nightmares.”

At age 19 she left America and never looked back. She wes Josephine Baker.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly Crisis (1917), Smithsonian (2017), Black Past.

See also:


My apologies

My model for a thread is a dinner conversation.

I am banning Lord of Mirkwood, aka An Scríbhneoir Gael-Mheiriceánach, for being a bully. The same as with Thad and Resw.

I should have done this back in December 2015 when he refused to apologize to Taotesan for an extremely insensitive, necrophilic remark that went way beyond the pale.

The necrophilic remark is long gone, but not what followed:

ABAGOND:  Maybe instead of trying to defend saying such a sick and insensitive thing, you should take a moment and reflect on what you did. Maybe even apologize.

I should not have to add necrophilia to my comment policy, but I guess I will have to because of people like you.

LORD OF MIRKWOOD: Hmmm. You shift the goalposts to avoid answering the criticism I posed. Logical fallacy much?

ABAGOND: I am not going to help you miss the point.

LORD OF MIRKWOOD: “Point?” You’re making a “point” by deleting one comment with zero profanity while certain users thread their comments with obscenities for years and years and never get so much as a blink?

And since then he has helped to drive off another commenter (Fan) and was disrupting my threads in what seemed to be an attempt to drive off a third: Resw.

Arguably, Fan and Resw gave as good as they got, and maybe they even “started it” in the technical sense, but that cannot be said of Taotesan and she got the worst of it. Like with Resw, his abuse seemed too programmatic. It was more than just him losing his cool every now and then.

The moral: When protecting a commenter in the name of “free speech”, I need to make sure I am not protecting a glorified bully. I need to make clear in the comment policy what behaviour counts as bullying. The trouble with bullying is that it can seem like justified anger even though it is far more calculated and manipulative than that.

My apologies to everyone, but particularly to Taotesan, Fan and Resw, for not having done this way, way sooner.

– Abagond, 2017.

Update (July 12th): As per his request, I have deleted all of Lord of Mirkwood’s comments.

See also:

  • Is Scribh a troll? – 64% of commenters and lurkers seem to think so
  • commenter – the scene of the crime (the necrophilic remark) – and my philosophy on commenting. His comments, though, are now deleted.
  • Egypt in 1275 BC – the last straw, where Resw and An Scribh were disrupting a perfectly innocent thread, one that had nothing to do with politics. His comments, though, are now deleted.
  • Comment Policy
  • Is Resw a troll? / Resw banned


Last week in this space Egypt’s Amal Maher sang a classic Arabic song, “Al-Atlal”. This week she sings a contemporary song. It came out in 2015 and has received 22 million views on YouTube. According to Google Translate it is about railway safety!

See also:


السلامة شفت انا منك انت ياما
يالا بالسلامة اتفضل رد الباب وراك
احسب الغلاوة واوعي لا تتقلب عداوة
هأعيشك دراما حبيبي بلاش اعملها معاك

هو انتا محدش قالك علي قلبتي
في العند تعالى يامعلم ودي حتتي
بأتلكك آه بأتلكك ماشي ياسيدي انا ظلماك
دا ماحدش عاش تجربة الا وقوته
والذكي الي بيستقتل علي فرصته
مش فارقه أنا أكون ف عيون الناس مستبيعة وانت ملاك

بأقسي كل مادا تاعبة انا نفسي وبزيادة
مش لاقية انا استفادة ولا حاجة ربطاني بيك
هاعيش لنفسي مرة سنين انا لا حول ولا قوة
حاولت ميت محاولة ومافيش أي امل فيك

هو انتا محدش قالك علي قلبتي
ف العند تعالى يا معلم ودي حتتي
بأتلكك اه بأتلكك ماشي ياسيدي انا ظلماك
دة ماحدش عاش تجربة الا وقوته
والذكي الي بيستقتل علي فرصته
مش فارقه أنا أكون في عيون الناس مستبيعة وانت ملاك

Source: zalyrics.com

I am reading “The Outline of History” (1920) by H.G. Wells. In part it is to prepare for my 1949 media diet in August, in part as a prequel to Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” (1868). Reading “War and Peace” is the best thing to come out of my RT news diet.

I am halfway through “War and Peace”. It is 1812 and Napoleon has just invaded Russia. So now I am taking a huge detour and reading “The Outline of History” up to that invasion. By the time I return to “War and Peace”, hopefully in a few weeks, I will have read an outline of world history from the formation of the earth, through the dinosaurs and Assyrians, all the way up to Napoleon’s invasion. I am already up to the Assyrians.

Three things so far strike me about “The Outline of History”:

1. Dated English: to-day, rôle, Annam, Nanking, Esquimaux, tabu, etc. Most of it seems to come from changes in the names for things non-Western. I noticed the same thing when I read Churchill’s “Second World War” (1953). Colonial English, you might call it. But where Churchill assumes you know where, say, Batavia is (it sounds like it is in Europe, not Indonesia), Wells tells you, say, what a tabu is. Something he is used to doing from writing his science fiction where he has to tell you, say, what a heat ray is. It is what I call science fiction mode. His dated English, therefore, is curious but not hard to understand.

2. Eurocentrism. He speaks of “our race”, meaning Caucasians, even though he is writing in English and knows about “the negroes of the United States who now all speak English,” as he puts it.

Scientific racism was at its height in his time, so it could have been worse. He seems to think “negroes”, “Caucasians” and “Mongolians” are all roughly the same, despite his capitalization, because of their use of language – but he has his doubts about Tasmanians.

How Eurocentric is Wells? Going by the good old table-of-contents test we get:

  • 3% Africa
  • 24% Asia
  • 67% Europe
  • 6% Americas

Compare that to the demographics of his time (1913):

  • 7% Africa
  • 54% Asia
  • 28% Europe
  • 11% Americas

He gives Europe and the Americas 72% of his history. These days 50% is more common for world histories by Westerners. Then, as now, it is double what it should be.

To be fair, Wells was writing his history to counter the narrowly nationalistic history that was still being taught in the West in the wake of a terrible world war.

3. Out-dated science: Wells does not know about Pluto or continental drift or DNA or Chomskyan ideas about language. But, surprisingly, he does know about climate change, both natural and man-made.

Reading Wells makes clear that science is merely a small set of best guesses, some of them wrong, most of them right, and that beyond it are things unknown and unguessed at.

Wells most reminds me of Herodotus: someone presenting a picture of the world as known to a well-informed person of his time and place.

– Abagond, 2017.

See also:



Sally Hemings’s room

Sally Hemings’s room (1809- ), pictured above, has been “discovered” at Monticello, the house of Thomas Jefferson. She was a slave who likely gave birth to six of his children. The room was built adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom in 1809, the same year Jefferson returned to Monticello after serving as the third US president.

In 1941 it was made into a men’s bathroom for tourists.

“Discovered” is in quotes because there is, so far, no physical evidence or written record that it was in fact her room. All we have to go on is what one of Jefferson’s grandsons said – and he has been wrong before. But given the fact it was used for house slaves and is close to Jefferson’s bedroom, it seems likely.

Restoration: Carefully taking apart the bathroom they found some of the wooden floorboards from the early 1800s, a brick fireplace and a place for a stove. It had no windows! It was 13 feet wide and 14 feet and 8 inches long (3.9m x 4.5m), making it 191 square feet.

In 2018 it should be ready for the public to see. They will add period furniture along with ceramics and other objects found on the Monticello estate.

Mountaintop Project: The restoration is part of the $35-million Mountaintop Project. Its aim is to restore Monticello to how Jefferson knew it and to tell the story not just of Jefferson himself but also of:

Black Monticello: Most of the people who lived on the 5,000-acre estate were Black. At any one time Monticello had about 150 slaves. So the Mountaintop Project is also restoring some buildings along Mulberry Row where slaves lived and work: a cabin, a textile shop, stables and an iron workshop (Jefferson made money selling the nails his slaves made).

Mia Magruder Dammann, a spokeswoman for Monticello, said:

“For the first time at Monticello, we have a physical space dedicated to Sally Hemings and her life. It’s significant because it connects the entire African-American arch at Monticello.”

In the course of his life Jefferson owned 607 slaves. In 1776, when he famously wrote “all men are created equal,” he owned 175 slaves.

Sally Hemings’s children had been rumoured to be his since 1802. He neither confirmed nor denied it. In 1998 a DNA test showed that her son Eston was his. Given that Jefferson freed him along with her other children, something he did for no other slave, they were all likely his children. She may have been the half sister of his dead wife.

Gayle Jessup White, whose great-great-great-great aunt is Sally Hemings, is now Monticello’s Community Engagement Officer. She said:

“I’m appreciative of the work that my colleagues are doing at Monticello because this is an American story, an important story. But for too long, our history has been ignored. Some people still don’t want to admit that the Civil War was fought over slavery.

“We need to face history head on and face the blemish of slavery and that’s what we’re doing at Monticello.”

Descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families meet at Monticello near Mulberry Row, 2016. Click to enlarge.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly NBC News (images), Smithsonian magazine, Atlanta Black Star, Huffington Post.

See also:



“All the President’s Men” (1976) is a Hollywood film about the first seven months of the Watergate scandal (June 1972 to January 1973). It is based on the 1974 book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters for the Washington Post. It follows them from the time they were assigned to cover a break-in at the Watergate Hotel to the time they had “followed the money” all the way up to H.R. Haldeman, the president’s chief of staff.

Catchphrase: “follow the money.”

It stars Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. Jason Robards won an Oscar for playing Ben Bradlee, editor-in-chief of the Washington Post. Hal Holbrook, his face in darkness, was Deep Throat. It was directed by Alan J. Pakula, he who produced “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

I first saw it back in the 1980s. I rewatched it since it seems like history might be repeating itself, or at least rhyming, what with Russiagate.

Compared to Russiagate, some things are the same, some things are different:

  • Fake news: In both cases the Washington Post is told it is wasting its time, that it is printing false stories based on anonymous sources, that it is letting its politics cloud its judgement, and so on. What would now be called “fake news”.
  • Deep state: Unlike what seems to be the case so far with Russiagate, US intelligence was covering up the president’s crimes – and knew it went way deeper than just some break-in. What the Department of Justice (DOJ) called an “intensive” investigation missed or covered up extremely important facts which the Washington Post caught. As the film tells it, that is what blew the scandal wide open. But for a free press, in other words, Watergate would just be another building in Washington, DC.

Follow the money: Most of the film shows Woodward and Bernstein chasing down leads and Bradlee shaking his head, telling them that they did not have enough. From time to time Woodward would meet Deep Throat in a deserted parking garage, just like in a Hollywood film. Oh, wait. Deep Throat, someone high up at the FBI whom Woodward knew, would tell him if he was on the right track. He famously advised Woodward to “follow the money.” That phrase, at least, is a Hollywoodism: it does not appear in the book.

Fear: Anyone who knew anything big was too afraid to talk to them. Which in itself told them they were onto something big. What were they so afraid of? The few who said anything did it indirectly: Deep Throat’s hints, the bookkeeper giving the first letter of a name, the “non-denial denials”. To get facts confirmed Woodward and Bernstein had to resort to the old reporter’s trick of pretending to know things they were merely guessing at.

Courage: As the film tells it, it all came down to Ben Bradlee’s courage to stick out his neck when almost no one else would, even among his fellow editors.

– Abagond, 2017.

See also:


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