The Fifth Column

Media Bubbles and Trump's 100-Day Scorecard: The New Fifth Column

Or, how many Reason articles can Matt Welch reference in a single podcast?


After some technical-competence issues concerning yours truly, The Fifth Column, that almost-weekly podcast of Kmele Foster, Michael C. Moynihan, and myself, is back with 100 minutes on the first 100 days of the Donald Trump presidency. We get into Trump's tax plan, his reversion to foreign-policy interventionism, his persistent trouble with the courts, non-softening toward Russia, serial policy-reversals, and ongoing discovery that policy making is more difficult than bumper-sticker slogans. We also chew at considerable length on the implications and applications of Jack Shafer's fascinating new Politico Magazine piece "The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think." Which becomes another reason to emphasize the curiosity that Reason is almost all alone out there when it comes to disclosing how our journalists vote. Check 'er out:

Among the many fine Reason articles I reference:

* "The New GOP Health Care Bill Shows Republicans Have Given Up on Fully Repealing Obamacare," by Peter Suderman

* "Broken Science," by Ron Bailey

* "You Know Less Than You Think About Guns," by Brian Doherty

You can find The Fifth Column at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play,, @wethefifth, and Facebook.

NEXT: Actually, It's Totally Fine That Obama Is Being Paid $400,000 to Give a 'Wall Street Speech'

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  2. I’m not hearing any booze so far.

    1. The technical issue that Matt refers to above is that they forgot to turn the mic on before they drank it all.

      1. I’d enjoy it if they (at least once) actually skipped the progressive build-up to being properly-boozed and just kicked off in the middle of wild-drunken argument.

        but that is not the case here, unfortunately. This is disappointingly-sober

        They seem to fail to recognize that half the entertainment value of the podcast is that they are something like a Libertarianish-news-version of “Drink Champs*”

        (*a podcast where 90s rappers get very drunk while being interviewed)

        1. We’ll fix it next week.

  3. I think journos should get past the “15%” corporate tax # that trump floats.

    everything he does is an absurd ‘opening gambit’ that probably indicates the limits of public plausibility.
    (i.e. anything more than that would be universally ridiculous)

    i think the real target is about halfway there.

    1. I think journos should get past the “15%” corporate tax # that trump floats.

      The ones who think it’s too high or the ones who think it’s too low? (I’m not listening, so I don’t know the context).

      1. The ones who think it’s too high or the ones who think it’s too low?

        Neither. They all simply take it at face-value (much like Trump’s pandering on any topic).

        I think political reporters don’t really have any experience understanding the way businesspeople do “narratives”. Just because he stakes out a certain position doesn’t mean he’s wedded to it. Its just a posture to see how opponents react, and then see what compromises are possible. Its just a different way of doing the same things all pols, do, only people like Obama preferred to be absurdly vague and noncommittal and ‘nuanced’ so that people thought “oooh he sounds smart”. Trump likes to say bold, absurd things and make people run around see how they react. Its just a different M.O. Its not confusing to most people, but many journos still seem to not get it.

        1. Yeah, people certainly should have figured that out about Trump by now.

          1. “I got low, you go high, we both do a little dance of fake-anger, and then we meet in the middle” = How Deals Get Done.

            He usually makes his statements “absurdly extreme” because he wants to create room for a future pivot – to take his opponents ‘off center’ and make them react.

            Other politicians are terrified of ever contradicting themselves, and will dissimulate to try and avoid ever saying anything *too clearly* so that they can change their views in the future. He doesn’t bother with that bullshit because he comes from a world where no one cares what your “First Opinion” was. They only care what you put on paper. So he just gabs however he feels, and watches as people scurry around taking contrary positions. Often what he’s doing is simply provoking opponents. I thought it was funny that he chose his “let’s build oil-rigs in National Parks” executive order* for Earth Day week. He obviously WANTS the press to freak out and waste their energies on stuff like that. Meanwhile it takes the heat of press attention off of stuff like the internal negotiations around healthcare, or other issues.

  4. Moynihan: Econ 101.

    Your rent IS affected by property taxes.

    1. THANK YOU. Though he might have been kidding.

      1. Or drunk.

    1. This is what happens with open borders.

      1. You end up with spam-bots driving around in Lotus Esprits (probably with their driver’s seat on the wrong side, too?

  5. Aside from speaking with a tone that rubs people wrong and not shutting up, what exactly policy wise has Trump done that’s out of the norm.

    Spare me the bull shit about DeVos and climate deniers since there are people who support this.

    Objectively, what are examples of him taking America soooo off the rails to justify all this hysterical reaction.

    1. 1 – people will cite his “muslim ban*”

      (even tho it wasn’t one; and even though its indistinguishable from things Obama did to absolutely zero controversy or pushback from the public; and even though it was temporary by-design, etc.)

      its stupid. its a trivial non-event.

      2 – they’ll claim that by actually bombing Assad’s assets, he’s significantly changed the dynamic in Syria

      i’d take this more syriously (*yes i did that) if any of these fuckwads had ever breathed a word of concern about Obama’s diving-headfirst into someone else’s civil war in 2011-2014

      Obama was saying, “assad must go” years ago. And what did these people think? On one hand they demand humanitarian intervention, and on the other hand they pretend to be anti-war. They’re full of shit. I don’t think he changed much as far as the US role in the fight,but i think as far as a cost-benefit of any action goes? It was actually smarter than a lot of shit the US has previously done. It actually might scare the Russians/Syrians into being less-confrontational because they don’t know how the US might react in the future.

      what else?

      (90% of which were things obama only did in the last 6 months of his administration)

      in short, its all bullshit.

  6. Media Bubbles is my burlesque stage name.

  7. In Which Michael Moynihan Demonstrates He Can Pronounce French Names Correctly

  8. Oh good, i hear a can of beer being opened 22 mins in. I was getting the shakes.

  9. Wow, Matt Welch goes full Hitler at 34 minutes.

    1. Spoiler alert!

    2. He literally said that open borders was gay.

  10. Wow, H1B Visa Abuse… even suggesting that? The whole panel is going white supremacist.

  11. (GASP)

    In which Matt says ‘Open Borders’ is “Not a practical way to run a country

    Shikha, Doherty, hardest hit.

  12. I have not heard anyone anywhere say that the removal of many of the itemized deductions are offset (at least in part) by a doubling of the standard deduction.

  13. Now it’s Moynihan’s turn to fuck up an episode out of existence.

  14. Re: where Moynihan summarizes how contemporary journalism is mostly being done by 20-somethings that don’t know shit about shit.

    my favorite quote on the subject =

    It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business ? 40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade ? in part because readers can absorb all the news they want from social-media platforms like Facebook… You have to have skin in the game ? to be in the news business, or depend in a life-or-death way on its products ? to understand the radical and qualitative ways in which words that appear in familiar typefaces have changed. Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

    I think he was being too-narrow in just saying it applied to Foreign Affairs coverage. But its certainly worst there.

    1. An example that was used was the young reporter who described Gaza and “bridges” that didn’t exist in one of his stories. They sit at desks in DC and make phone calls.

  15. Matt makes a great point summarizing how the NYT is a product of the specific environment in NYC and the fact that it doesn’t NEED to do lots of kinds of news-coverage because it exists in a city where all those other roles are filled by competitors….

    also how people assume its the apex of journalism, which is more of an accident because they’re *free* to limit themselves to stuff like “international news” and “arts coverage”, etc. Effectively making readers able to pretend that they’re wordly and arty and therefore ‘informed’.

    1. Moynihan’s response is to strongly imply that Matt is autistic.

  16. My own personal example of “How Shitty Can the NYT Get” is the decision to include this (entirely contrived) chart on their front-page on the day after the San Berdoo shooting.

  17. Re: science

    the false pretense that is being advanced by the March For Science types is that “Science” tells us ‘What to Do’.

    science tells us things about the world. “What to do about those things” is a political decision. they want to pretend that their version of the latter (‘what to do’) is a conclusion of the former. Basically conflating their own political views with ‘science’.

  18. re: Moynihan pointing out that the March for Science types readily believe ‘bad science’ all the time =

    Organic Food.

    there’s no nutritional benefit vs. ‘convenitional’ ag. There’s no pesticide difference on the product once its consumed. There’s actually plenty of evidence that Organic is *worse* for the environment because of the additional demands that it places on labor/energy sources, and the runoff of “organic” fertilizers is actually far more dangerous to water supply than the synthetic/petrochemical variants.

    yet these people will just sniff and say, “I believe there’s anecdotal evidence that its better”. They leap from one positive claim to the next. if you hit it for being nutritionally weak, they go ‘environment’, if you hit it on environmental weakness, they go, “i want to support family-farms” (never mind most organic food is made on the same industrial scale as any other food product). Ultimately they’ll fall back to some vague appeal that it has some intangible benefits by enabling alternatives.

    but the second you turn your back, they’ll start asserting its “healthier” to someone else.

  19. Matt, the 90s were awesome, so don’t let that garrulous grumbler Moynihan tell you otherwise.

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