6 toxic attitudes that could kill democracy

By Mark Jacob

One of our best qualities as Americans is optimism. One of our worst qualities is complacency. With right-wing extremism on the rise, our democracy is under grievous threat, and we’ve got to get our thinking right to protect it. Here are six toxic attitudes that must be banished. They’re not direct quotes from anyone; they’re just mindsets that I’ve identified.

1. “It’s just politics.”

Politics isn’t a frivolous sport, despite the way mainstream media often treat it. Politics is whether poor kids in your town get dinner. Politics is whether your former English teacher has to ration her insulin. Politics is whether your mom is shot at the grocery store because society encourages ownership of assault weapons. There’s a saying in Washington that some politicians are showhorses and some are workhorses. It’s easy to see who’s who. (Hint: If you’re doing a TV commercial that shows you blowing up a Toyota Prius that has “socialism” written on the side, you’re a showhorse.) Instead of dismissing all politics, let’s support politicians who want to make a difference – and not just in their own bank accounts.

2. “All politicians lie.”

It’s true that all human beings lie at one point or another. But some lie way more than others. A few like Donald Trump make it the theme of their entire career. Treating all politicians as inherently corrupt is a wet kiss to the truly corrupt. It gives them cover. There’s a difference between Biden getting facts wrong when he recalls an old conversation with an Amtrak conductor and Trump lying to the public about a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans. The real danger of this “both sides” mentality is that it makes people think no one is credible. In that case, there are no shared facts and we can’t possibly operate a democratic government. The ultimate motive of right-wing propaganda isn’t to get you to believe them. It’s to get you to believe nothing, stop participating in democracy and surrender the government to them.

3. “MAGA doesn’t scare me. There are more of us than them.”

This would be a perfectly fine attitude if human beings operated by “majority rules.” They almost never do. (See “Royalty, history of.”) The United States, the world’s oldest democracy, has never been a “majority rules” country. At the outset, women and enslaved people couldn’t vote, and white males who didn’t own land were routinely denied the vote. Even today, apportionment of the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College give more power to voters in less populated states. For example, the Dakotas have four senators while California, with 20 times the population, has two. Then there are states like Wisconsin, where manipulation of legislative maps, a.k.a. gerrymandering, has given Republicans outsized power. In the 2020 state Senate races, Wisconsin Republicans won 49% of the votes but 63% of the seats. History offers plenty of examples where a determined minority overcame an apathetic majority. In November 1932 elections, just 33 percent of Germans supported the Nazis. Two months later, Adolf Hitler became chancellor and imposed a murderous dictatorship.

4. “Our politics are self-correcting. We always move back toward the center.”

These are unpredictable times. The Jan. 6 coup attempt didn’t follow old patterns, and there’s no reason to assume the 2024 election will either. Global trends are not encouraging: Democracy has been retreating for years in countries like Hungary, Turkey and India. If we think we’re all that different, we’re fooling ourselves. There’s no guarantee we’ll ever snap back to anything resembling normal. The leader of the coup is the top Republican candidate for president, and he’s defended by the most-watched cable news channel. If we find our way back to political safety, it will happen because of activism, not some mysterious self-correction. If we wait for that, we’re doomed. 

5. “Big money is all that matters in politics.”

This attitude is too often used by people to avoid getting involved in determining their own future. Americans aren’t supposed to be victims. We’re supposed to seize our own destinies. That means getting involved. Knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking for their vote is far more likely to sway them than a 30-second commercial on TV.

6. “I don’t care what they do in Alabama. I live in California.”

Being a patriot means caring about the people of all 50 states. A lot of them are being victimized by horrible politicians, and they need our help. Even from a purely selfish perspective, we ought to care. Fascism is like cancer. It spreads. If Wisconsin Republicans get away with impeaching a Supreme Court justice who was elected by an 11-point margin and hasn’t ruled on anything yet, it will embolden MAGA fascists nationwide. When Ron DeSantis pushes book bans and tries to strong-arm businesses for political reasons, he’s not just thinking about Florida. He wants to take it nationwide. Also, our entire nation is damaged because red states send fascist punks like Josh Hawley and Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress. You don’t get a chance to vote against them, but you’re suffering from them nonetheless. You can give donations to candidates in other states. Consider it.

One of the few positive aspects of our political crisis is that right and wrong are so clearly defined. Don’t rationalize staying on the sidelines.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


A new idea in political interviews: Ban the liars

By Mark Jacob

What if TV news interviewers told their upcoming political guests: “Don’t come on my show and lie. If you do, I’ll end the interview immediately and inform you on camera that you’ll never appear on my show again.”

That won’t happen, of course.

But it should.

Taking a firm stand for the truth would prevent abominations like Kristen Welker’s interview of Donald Trump in her debut as host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. It was a shameful piece of journalism in which Welker cleared the street for Trump’s parade of lies, pushing back only occasionally and ineffectively.

One glaring example was when Trump claimed FOUR TIMES that Democrats want to kill babies “after birth.” Welker contradicted him the first two times on that absurd lie, but let it go unchallenged the next two times. Since the interview was taped and edited, NBC made a conscious decision to allow Trump to spread the toxic lie on its airwaves four times.

When NBC announced that the Trump interview would not be shown live, some naive observers thought NBC chose to tape it in order to fact-check Trump’s comments before airing them. But the main motive was obvious: NBC taped the interview so it could market it more successfully, producing sneak-peek news stories and video clips for days before the “Meet the Press” broadcast.

One NBC story in advance of the show was headlined “Trump wants to bring the country together on abortion: ‘Both sides are going to like me.’” Note that it’s NBC – not Trump – saying in the headline that the man most responsible for overturning Roe vs. Wade “wants to bring the country together on abortion.” The very notion that a divisive figure like Trump wants to bring the country together is ridiculous, unless NBC thinks authoritarianism would bring the country together.

After the Trump interview aired, Peter Baker of the New York Times reminded us that he’s part of the problem by praising Welker for fact-checking Trump “all along the way.” Which gave Welker way too much credit. A few minutes after Trump lied that he was facing “four Biden indictments,” Welker clarified that the federal indictments were issued by the special counsel, not through the regular Justice Department process. But she failed to point out that two of the four indictments aren’t even federal. They were filed in Fulton County, Georgia, and New York City with zero Biden administration involvement.

When NBC did fact-check Trump – which was not often enough – the corrections were often far removed from Trump’s lies. After Trump used false figures to overstate U.S. aid to Ukraine, NBC waited until its journalist panel segment 20 minutes later to clean it up. It was like trying to remove a stain long after it was affixed to the fabric.

NBC’s apparent strategy was to let Trump con the audience while Welker postured that she was being tough on him. She asked him repeatedly whether he thought a fetus had constitutional rights. But she never demanded an answer nor stipulated for the audience that he didn’t answer. When journalists ask tough questions but allow the guest to ignore them, that’s not being tough. That’s being a performer.

The whole interview was an assault on the truth and a triumph for Trump – another disappointing performance by mainstream news media.

Journalists need to demand more of their guests. But I’m certainly not calling for a ban on guests with conservative views. Far from it. If a guest wants to argue for an abortion ban or against the Affordable Care Act – and if they can do so without lying – more power to them. That’s what news shows should be – a fact-based examination of the issues. I just think that when news media willingly let their guests lie to their audience, they’re serving the liars, not the audience.

The problem is that news organizations, especially TV networks, think they need politicians more than the politicians need them. I don’t believe this is true, but the networks seem to think so. That’s why they treat liars so kindly – so that they keep coming on the air.

It’s all about access, and the newsmakers know that and take advantage of it.

These journalists aren’t looking for access in order to better inform the public. They’re looking for access in order to make themselves look like players, gain bigger ratings and make more money. When you put Trump on “Meet the Press,” it’s primarily a marketing decision.

Is it possible that journalists who platform lying fascists don’t know they’re undermining democracy? Could they truly be unaware after all we’ve been through? Really?

An alternative explanation is that they simply don’t care if they undermine democracy.

And that is truly frightening.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


The Republican trick to spin straw into gold

By Mark Jacob

You may remember the fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin,” starring a gnome-like character who could spin straw into gold.

That magic trick is nothing compared to what Republicans are doing today.

The right wing takes something worth less than straw – bogus allegations – and feeds it into its own spinning wheel – Fox News and Newsmax. That leads to opinion polls showing many Americans believe the bogus allegations. Then MAGA politicians point to those polls as evidence. After all, the polls are full of numbers, and numbers look like facts. A lot of people believe it, there must be something to it, right?

Well, no, but that’s the modern way to spin straw into gold.

There are plenty of examples of this scam working, most prominently Donald Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. The Republican lies weren’t even good lies. It was supposedly a plot by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, even though Chavez had been dead for seven years. Or Italian satellites were switching votes. Or Georgia election volunteers were masterminds passing around thumb drives, even though in reality they were only sharing a ginger mint. Team Trump lost in court more than 60 times but kept lying, inspiring a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and creating the pretext for the fake-electors scheme.

And the Republicans are still leveraging those lies, trying to make voting more difficult in the guise of “restoring voter confidence.”

News media play into the straw-spinning when they fail to aggressively confront those lies. The New York Times, for example, is often uncomfortable saying Trump lies and prefers to say he has a “casual relationship with the truth.” Or the Times says he’s “famously blustery,” as if his fraudulent behavior is just an amusing personality quirk. Now-fired CNN boss Chris Licht reportedly told his producers to avoid the term “Big Lie” because he thought it was too close to the Democrats’ messaging. Even though it was a completely accurate way to describe what was happening.

The campaign to impeach Joe Biden over the behavior of his son Hunter is another Rumpelstiltskin situation where “feelings” and “strong suspicions” are being fed into the right-wing propaganda machine to produce poll results that can be pointed to as validation. There’s a reason why ambitious MAGA Rep. James Comer isn’t showing us his alleged evidence of misconduct by the president but instead keeps citing the polls.

Here again is a situation where journalists aren’t framing the news in a useful way for the American public. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen and others have noted that many reports bury the fact that Republicans have come up with no evidence that Joe Biden benefitted from his son’s business activities. Citing a recent Washington Post story, Rosen wrote: “The lack of evidence is almost an afterthought, paragraph 17 of 23.”  

Right-wing disinformation has created a captive audience utterly distrustful of legitimate journalism. Yet if the mainstream media don’t fight back – if they’re not advocating for the truth as passionately as the right wing is advocating for lies – how can we expect the American public to arrive at the truth?

We can’t stop the right wing from spinning its fairy tales. But when major media soft-pedal the facts, there’s a greater danger that people will see straw as gold. Or at least fool’s gold.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


The New York Times Has a Serious Headline Problem

By Mark Jacob

The New York Times wrote a sharp editorial last week ripping “right-wing extremists” for blocking renewed funding of a U.S. program to fight AIDS overseas. The Times called out Republicans for being “eager to politicize a once-bipartisan issue.”

But the Times’ headline for that editorial was a vague and cowardly effort:

“Partisan Politics Put a Huge Win for Public Health at Risk”

As if the villain was a shadowy monster named “politics,” not Republicans.

Sometimes a misguided headline in the Times reflects the misguided text underneath it. But as the “partisan politics” headline shows, even when the Times gets serious about right-wing extremism, its headlines often do not.

For example, when Alabama Republicans defied a Supreme Court ruling, the Times made the ruling seem optional: “Alabama Lawmakers Decline to Create New Majority-Black Congressional District.”

When Gov. Ron DeSantis went on a book-banning and educator-harassment campaign in Florida, the Times found the bright side: “DeSantis Takes on the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand.”

Over the Labor Day weekend, President Joe Biden inspected Florida hurricane damage and expressed a willingness to appear with Gov. Ron DeSantis, but DeSantis declined. Yet the Times headline put the onus on Biden: “Biden Won’t Meet DeSantis in Florida During Tour of Hurricane Damage.” After that headline raised dust on social media, the Times changed it to “DeSantis and Biden Won’t Meet in Florida During Tour of Hurricane Damage.” That still didn’t pin the incivility on DeSantis, where it belonged. Later in a follow-up story, the Times wrote a third headline that still didn’t blame DeSantis: “In Florida, Even a Hurricane Can’t Sweep Away Presidential Politics.”

Headlines like that last one create a “safe space” for the Times by suggesting that no one is at fault or everyone is. When the Republicans engineered the debt ceiling crisis last spring, the Times wrote a story headlined “Finger-Pointing Won’t Save Anyone if Default Leads to Economic Collapse.”

This tendency goes well beyond headlines, of course. The Times’ chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, got appropriate criticism for his recent tweet blaming America’s political divisions on ”tribalism.” Baker seems not to understand that the Republican Party has taken a fascist turn that the rest of us find alarming. Our opposition is not “tribalism” – it’s basic human decency.

Even when the Times isn’t talking directly about partisan politics, its negative spin on America’s well-being bolsters the Republicans’ relentless criticism of Biden. A Times headline in July said:

“Despite Successes at NATO Summit, Divisions Remain.”

The headline could have said, “Despite Divisions, NATO Summit Logs Successes.” But the Times postured as savvy and sophisticated by going negative. This tendency is especially common with economic stories. Three examples this year:

“Why a Strong U.S. Economy Is Making Stock Investors Jittery”

“Against the Odds, the U.S. Economy Chugs Along, as Fears Linger”

“Inflation Has Been Easing Fast, but Wild Cards Lie Ahead”

Of course, the economy will always feature “fears” and “wild cards.” Investors will always be “jittery.” This is not news.

Last weekend, a New York Times noted the nation’s strong economic trends in a story headlined “Biden Struggles to Make ‘Bidenomics’ a Plus, Not a Minus.” But why is Biden struggling? Because the Times and other news media are not clearly delivering the facts.

Big business often catches a break in Times headlines. When inflation rose because of obvious price gouging (including record profits for oil companies), the Times wrote: “Companies Push Prices Higher, Protecting Profits but Adding to Inflation.” Ah, “protecting profits” – sounds nice!

The Times’ timid approach to headlines is a gift to corrupt politicians. A glaring example was the Times’ initial hesitancy to call Trump’s lies “lies.” The Times uses that word a bit more often now, but it still twists itself in knots to find odd euphemisms. A headline last week said: “Emulating Trump, Ramaswamy Shows a Penchant for Dispensing With the Facts.”

Another political bad actor who got friendly treatment from the Times headline writers was Italy’s notoriously corrupt Silvio Berlusconi. His Times obituary headline called him a “Showman Who Upended Italian Politics and Culture.” (That see-no-evil outlook shows up in stories too. The Times has repeatedly described Trump ally Bernard Kerik as a “former New York City police commissioner,” leaving out the part where he did prison time for tax fraud and lying to investigators.)

The Times’ framing of politics matters because a lot of news organizations mimic its approach. And also because the Times doesn’t just report the news – it makes the news. The Times’ acceptance of false claims that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction helped justify the disastrous war in Iraq. Its over-the-top coverage of Hillary Clinton’s private email server helped put Trump in the White House

When the Times is good, it’s very good – even on politics. Examples include a smart explainer graphic on Trump’s coup attempt and a refreshingly direct assessment of Rep. Elise Stefanik’s cynical embrace of Trumpism.

But too often it falls short, writing headlines that sand down the sharp edges of Republican extremism. If only the Times would give us this headline:

“New York Times Finally Realizes That the Rise of Fascism Is Not Normal and Vows to Defend Democracy.”

Now, that would be worth a subscription.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


Unprecedented Times: Here’s How 7 Gen-Zers Feel about the Upcoming 2024 Election

From Pennsylvania, to Wisconsin, to Michigan, young people growing up in the US bring a unique perspective to the 2024 Election.

From coast to coast and everywhere in between, the 2023 class of interns at COURIER grew up facing a unique political environment in their respective home states. But despite these different experiences, there are two themes every intern could agree on ahead of the 2024 Presidential election: hope and a desire for change. This is what our seven Gen Z interns have to say about growing up in these ‘unprecedented times’ and what it’s meant for them.

Lena, Pennsylvania

“Growing up in a battleground state didn’t leave room for me to be politically complacent. The ebb and flow of democracy can feel frustrating sometimes, but is also something we are incredibly lucky to have in this country. The political diversity in my state makes us a more interesting place where ideas are created and debated, but also leads to a great deal of inaction and gridlock, just like politics at the national level.

Before 2020, I didn’t know many other people my age that cared about politics. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything changed. Thanks to the Internet, Gen Z made their voices heard that summer, protesting and fighting for change in a time where our youth felt stripped away from us. We came out swinging for the 2020 Election, turning out in historically high numbers. It was a moment where it felt like we truly had the power and were actually making people listen to us.

Now I’m 20 years old and studying political science in college, and I’m starting to feel worn out. Heading into the 2024 Election, young people don’t feel that same excitement that we felt in 2020. Action on issues that we care about, like climate change and gun regulation have received little to no attention. We’ve seen gay marriage get legalized, and trans rights rolled back. We grew up with Roe as settled law, and saw it repealed. And older generations tell us we are the future, yet simultaneously tell us that we are naive or asking for too much.

Heading into 2024, candidates will need to earn the youth vote. We will be an even larger voting bloc than in 2020, and our power won’t be denied. We demand change, and it is not enough to just be the alternative— we need real action. Democracy is worth fighting for, and America is worth fighting for. I refuse to abandon ship when so much is at stake, and will continue to amplify the voices of my generation.”


Toni, North Carolina

“My political development truly began with the tumultuous era of 2016. From the controversial anti-trans bathroom bill (HB2) to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott – an unarmed Black man in Charlotte, I saw bigotry and injustice slowly unsheathe before my eyes in North Carolina. Donald Trump’s election was the exclamation point.

I vividly remember the morning following Trump’s victory as a freshman in high school in North Carolina. While some students cheered in celebration of the election results, others sobbed in absolute despair over the fate of the nation. During that election cycle, I realized that the America that I hoped and longed for – one that would champion tolerance, equity, and social justice – may not have been a vision shared by all. What scared me most with my realization was that it seemed to be a dead-end. How do you reconcile starkly different visions of a nation? Can you?

My political journey thus far has been trying to grapple with this question. Affinity and social justice spaces were my first attempts at answer-searching. My knowledge of American history and politics grew and blossomed. But as my knowledge grew so did my pessimism, and I feared the implications of another election in 2020. I feared that America would once again delude itself into thinking that 2016 was an anomaly. That Trump wasn’t symptomatic of a larger problem.

Since the last election, I’ve been struggling between feelings of hope and feelings of political apathy. On the one hand, I am hopeful of change. On the other hand, I can’t foresee it. 

From book-bannings to anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion laws growing in state legislatures, to inceldom and far-right rhetoric being repackaged on all confines of the internet, I get a bad feeling that I’m watching history repeat itself. On the other hand, I see people coming together in outrage of these developments. I see social justice becoming of importance once again in the lives of young people. I see Gen-Z getting older and voting more. 

All this regressive pushback could simply be a sign of the change we’ve been waiting for. And for that I can be a teeny-weeny bit hopeful.” 


Fiona, Wisconsin

“I did not grow up in Wisconsin, but it was the first state I voted in. Coming from Minnesota, where our elections tend to favor my personal political leanings, my generation’s calls for change felt important but distant. But even more discouraging was the constant rhetoric surrounding younger generations like my own. 

Attending college in Wisconsin, Minnesota’s more politically divisive neighbor, made me realize how much sway young voters like me can have. 

This year’s midterm elections were some of the closest in Wisconsin, and for the first time in my life, I was a part of the group that would decide the future of our state — young voters. But even more empowering for me was how my generation turned out in Wisconsin’s latest election this spring. 

Even though spring elections have notoriously low participation, this year’s battle for control over the state Supreme Court brought youth to the polls like never before. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin has been a national battleground over the right to abortion. The election of liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was a turning point for this fight — and it was in many ways thanks to my generation choosing to make their voices heard. 

I really noticed this shift in my generation in 2020. The pandemic, the January 6 insurrection, increasingly apparent police brutality, and worsening signs of climate change pushed Gen Z to a breaking point. Young people have always vocalized their desire for change, but 2020 felt like the first time that we demanded it.

I grew up hearing that the youth is notorious for low turnouts at the polls. Young generations have always been portrayed as disinterested and disconnected from politics. But studying political science and international studies in college with my colleagues, I have seen the opposite. I’ve found that the more I learn, the more invested I am in our government, our future, and our impact. My generation has always cared about our future, and now, we are forcing the world to listen.”  


Maddison, Michigan 

“As a child, I had the privilege of growing up in a small community. I was surrounded by some of the most caring and supportive people I have ever known. The town had a strong sense of community and celebrated each other’s successes. Although the community was close-knit, members lacked open mindedness. 

I grew up in a family that was vocal about politics and their beliefs. From a young age, I was encouraged to be aware of what’s happening in the world and to form my own opinions. 

As I grew older, I became more outspoken in my beliefs, but I quickly learned my ideologies weren’t respected in my community. Few of my classmates shared my feelings and I often found myself in the minority when discussing political topics. I was met with criticism and pushback, which made me feel unwelcome. 

The 2016 presidential election was disheartening. It hurt to see issues I cared deeply about not being addressed or made light of. During this time, I felt like my opinions were dismissed and not taken seriously. I felt like I had no control over my future and my voice wasn’t heard. 

It wasn’t until the Women’s March of 2016 where I felt like my voice was heard. With 1.2 million people standing around me, fighting for their rights and beliefs, I felt like I had the power to change not only mine, but my generation’s future. 

The march served as a powerful reminder that our voices can be heard and that our generation can make a difference.”


Emily, Virginia

“I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, the sprawling suburb of Washington, D.C. We in NoVA live in a sort of “Federal Bubble.” Politics and government were everything, considering such a great number of my classmates’ families were involved in either in some way. I grew up expecting that every person I meet would feel just as strongly about their own opinions as I did mine — which is why, when I moved to Richmond, I was surprised to find how much apathy there was around voting and politics in people my age. I watched classmates let the 2020 presidential election wash right over them, then the same with our 2021 gubernatorial election. I questioned how they could care so little about our government when voting was such an easy thing to do.

But, then again, I understand just as well as they do how exhausting it is to be Gen Z.

It’s exhausting being told that we’re the ones who have to “fix” the world we were born into. It’s too easy to slip into a state of complacency, because why should it be our job? Is it our fault the ice caps are melting? Are we the ones who voted for a president who would set such disturbing precedents? If this is not our mess, then why are we expected to clean it up?

To love something is to want it to be the best that it can be, and that’s how I feel about my state and my country. I love being a Virginian and an American, and I want them both to be places where everyone can exist safely and happily. So many other members of our generation agree, so we’re putting in the work for those who can’t. As frustrating as it can be, such is the way of the world that it’s every new generation’s responsibility to use the knowledge we’ve gained to take the reins. Gen Z is ready to vote like our lives depend on it, because they do.”


Aaeshah, Michigan 

“Growing up in a Pakistani family that was always discussing politics back home, politics was no foreign concept to me. However, American politics seemed like a game to never play, as my family and community discussed the negative impacts of American domestic and foreign policy on Pakistan’s residents and even Muslims within the United States. 

Having been born and raised in Michigan, I grew up not interested in politics, until the fateful 2018 midterms took place. When I saw Rashida Tlaib take office in Detroit, my life was forever changed, as I witnessed the passion she held for her community and how that passion carried into her work everyday. When I saw the negative comments on her social media platforms, I was reminded of the negative stereotypes and blatant Islamophobia that is rampant in our society. But what was surprising was the way Rashida and others like Ilhan Omar handled it, not letting it stop them from making good and necessary change. I saw a glimmer of hope for people like me to be involved in these spaces, with a path forging in my mind to better the world and reform the systems that continue to harm communities like mine. 

It wasn’t until 2020, when the world was forever changed, that this path came to light for me, where I fueled my passion for making necessary change into action. Pakistan being one of the main countries to be impacted by climate change in the future fueled my passion for climate justice, whilst seeing my worn out peers and their dissatisfaction with the government fueling my passion for youth voter engagement and civic activism. Although the fight was hard, the significant rise in youth voting in 2020 motivated me to keep going, seeing that the work I was doing was having a strong impact. 

Even during unprecedented times like COVID-19, my generation continues to rise up to the challenge of justice and equity for all, and I seek to use my voice and my background to benefit marginalized communities domestically and globally. It starts with a vote, a vote that can transform policies and shift movements. It may not be easy to do, but it sure is worth it.” 


Grace, Iowa

“Ever since I was a little girl, my mom has taken me with her to vote. She never showed me her ballot, never told me who she was voting for, or talked very much about politics at all. The one thing she consistently did, however, was vote in every single election—and remind us that in the purple state of Iowa, every last vote counts. 

It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 that I truly understood my parent’s political beliefs, and who they were really voting for over the years. Unbeknownst to me, my parents were conservative—but not for long.

At 19 years old, I have seen ideologies shift within my family and myself as the U.S. political landscape has dramatically changed within the last decade. Having voted in just one election, and now quickly approaching my first presidential election, I have watched how growing up in a conservative, yet impartial, household has shaped me to be a Gen-Z voter, student, and journalist. 

Something in the country shifted on February 14, 2018, the day a gunman opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff. I remember watching events unfold halfway across the country in Iowa; I watched the students say on the news that “enough is enough,” and “never again,” calling the nation to stand up. And despite my parent’s politics, they supported me as I took my first trip to Washington D.C. to protest the grotesque gun laws in this country with March For Our Lives

Following the protest, my generation watched the country change dramatically; we experienced a global pandemic, the January 6 insurrections at the capitol, the Black Lives Matter movement, a growing labor movement, and a climate change crisis. It’s impossible not to stand up and speak out.“

Even in a sea of cynicism and misinformation, change is possible, and it’s now Gen-Z’s turn to steer the ship.


When News Outlets Hand Megaphones to Menaces

By Mark Jacob

If Ann Coulter won the Nobel Peace Prize or scored the winning goal in the World Cup, the New York Times would be compelled to put her in its pages.

But she didn’t do either of those things. She didn’t do anything, really, except continue to say narrow-minded and racist things about politics. Yet the Times chose to include her thoughts in an opinion piece last week, as if she was an esteemed expert graciously enhancing our worldview.

Coulter’s inclusion was especially odd because she said in 2002 that her “only regret with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.” She later clarified that she “should have added, ‘after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.’”

By giving Coulter a place of honor in its opinion section, the Times not only showed a lack of respect for its audience but also a lack of respect for itself. If the editors were looking for balance, they could have found a right-wing pundit who didn’t advocate the murder of the Times’ entire staff or the murder of anyone, for that matter. But they picked Coulter because of her star power.

There was minor criticism of the Times’s decision, but nothing like the dust-up in 2020 when the Times ran Sen. Tom Cotton’s “Send in the Troops” op-ed calling for the military to put down social justice protests after the murder of George Floyd. Times editorial page editor James Bennet initially defended publication of Cotton’s fact-challenged piece, saying “Times Opinion owes it to our readers to show them counter-arguments.” But the Times eventually said “the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published,” and Bennet resigned.

Some news organizations think they can maintain distance from public figures even when they’re platforming them. But they can’t. Newsrooms have a choice about who they put on their airwaves and their websites. Their inclusion comes across as an endorsement not necessarily of everything the public figure says but of their status as someone whose views are worth hearing.

In Fox News’ conspiracy to spread lies about the 2020 election, much of the disinformation came out of the mouths of guests, not Fox employees. Fox probably thought it had deniability — that it was just covering the news and its guests were newsmakers. Problem was, internal Fox communications revealed in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit showed that Fox higher-ups knew Trump’s Big Lie advocates were “lying” and promoting “really crazy stuff” but Fox put them on the air anyway.

When it became clear that Fox couldn’t duck responsibility, the network agreed to pay a $787 million settlement.

A more recent example of media recklessness was Newsmax airing Sarah Palin’s outrageous call for civil war. Talking last week to host Eric Bolling about the indictments of Donald Trump, Palin said:

“I think those who are conducting this travesty and creating this two-tiered system of justice and I want to ask them, ‘What the heck? Do you want us to be in civil war?’ because that’s what’s going to happen. We’re not going to keep putting up with this. And Eric, I like that you suggested that we need to get angry. We do need to rise up and take our country back.”

Newsmax knows Palin is a reckless demagogue. That’s why Newsmax invited her on the air. It owns what she says.

News organizations need to start showing more responsibility. When they amplify liars and promoters of violence, they legitimize them. And they delegitimize themselves at the same time.

(Credit to Media Matters’ Matt Gertz for recalling Ann Coulter’s wish for a terrorist bombing of the New York Times building.)

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


12 Ways the Republican Party Became This Radicalized

By Mark Jacob

It’s a mistake to think Donald Trump turned the Republican Party into the dangerous anti-democratic movement it is today. The GOP’s descent into fascism was a lengthy process that was well underway when Trump was a young man in the 1970s helping his father discriminate against Black apartment seekers. Here’s a look at 12 key steps in the Republican radicalization: 

Circa 1964: Southern Strategy

Pro-segregation Southern Democrats became increasingly annoyed at calls within their party for racial justice. These “Dixiecrats” defected to the Republican Party, with prominent racist Strom Thurmond making the switch in 1964. Republican adviser Lee Atwater later described the GOP’s “Southern Strategy” to attract the votes of white supremacists:You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘[Atwater said the n-word three times].’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘[n-word]’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.”

In the 1970s, GOP candidate Ronald Reagan pushed a “welfare queen” myth to demonize the poor and make white people think lazy Black people were taking advantage of them. In 1976, Republican Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz resigned after it was revealed he privately said some other extremely racist things

1972: Watergate

After a Republican burglary crew was arrested at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C., President Richard Nixon conducted a cover-up that brought down his presidency. (This was back when overt support for criminals was less fashionable among Republicans.) Nixon was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. Nixon later claimed presidents are above the law: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

1980: More skulduggery

As Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan prepared to debate Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter, Reagan’s aides had access to a briefing book stolen from the Carter campaign. James Baker, who became Reagan’s chief of staff, said years later that the book came from William Casey, who became Reagan’s CIA director. Casey said he had “no recollection” of the book, and no one was ever punished.

There are strong suspicions that an even more egregious Republican dirty trick took place in the 1980 campaign. Carter’s best chance at re-election was to gain release of 52 American hostages seized by Iran from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. But according to a prominent Texas politician who spoke to the New York Times earlier this year, an American delegation led by Democrat-turned-Republican John Connally secretly sent a message to Iran that if it held the hostages until after the election, it could get a better deal from Reagan. That would mean, in effect, that the pro-Reagan delegation urged Iran to hold American hostages longer.

1990s: Gingrich down and dirty

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is as responsible as anyone for the bare-knuckles political rhetoric common today. In 1990, Gingrich’s political action committee listed words that should be used to pillory Democrats, including “sick,” “traitors,” “welfare,” “corrupt,” “cheat,” “anti-child,” “disgrace,” “destroy” and “steal.” And he specialized in culture wars that blamed liberals for society’s ills, however farfetched. After South Carolina mother Susan Smith killed her two sons in 1994 by drowning them in a lake, Gingrich said it showed “how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. The only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

1996: Fox News founded

When right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch launched Fox News, CEO Roger Ailes promised “balanced, objective journalism presenting both sides of the issues.” Instead Fox became one of the most effective disinformation ops in modern times. Ailes specialized in scaring culturally conservative white people into thinking their country was being stolen from them.

Ailes quit in 2016 amid revelations that he had harassed women for decades, but Fox News stayed the course on Republican partisanship. Fox’s lies about the 2020 election led to a lawsuit by the Dominion Voting Systems and the revelation of evidence that Fox higher-ups knew they were broadcasting falsehoods. Fox reached a $787 million settlement with Dominion but is still lying today.

2000: Brooks Brothers Riot

Democratic nominee Al Gore won about half a million more votes than Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. But because of the Electoral College system, the outcome came down to who would capture Florida’s electoral votes. In that state, the race was extremely close. Lawyers from both sides rushed to Florida, and so did a group of well-dressed Republican operatives who swarmed a Miami-Dade manual recount site in an intimidating manner. Participants in the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot” included Trump pal Roger Stone and Matt Schlapp, now chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The chaos caused Miami-Dade officials to abandon their recount and cast further suspicion on the entire process. Right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prevailed as the court blocked a statewide recount and accepted a state board’s determination that Bush won by 537 votes. Gore conceded graciously, unlike Trump two decades later.

2004: Swiftboating

In a model for the kind of disinformation that has become standard operating procedure for Republicans, right-wingers attacked one of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s strengths – his military record in Vietnam – and attempted to turn it into a weakness. Kerry commanded a Navy vessel known as a swift boat, and a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed Kerry had received his medals improperly. Those claims were later debunked, but they made plenty of headlines and had their political effect.

2008: Birtherism

Four years after the “swiftboating” of John Kerry, the right wing went after Democratic nominee Barack Obama with another bogus allegation, suggesting he was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to be president. It was a lie, and they knew it. But the false allegation didn’t go away. Years after Obama won the White House, Trump used the birtherism hoax to increase his own prominence in right-wing circles and didn’t drop the lie until 2016, when he blamed it on Hillary Clinton.

2010: Kooks as candidates

You may think Republicans ran kooks as major candidates only recently. But in 2010, the GOP Senate nominee in Delaware was Christine O’Donnell, who said: “I dabbled into witchcraft. … One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.” The issue compelled O’Donnell to run a television ad stating, “I am not a witch.” Despite inviting mockery, the party didn’t abandon her. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Republican Senate Conference, even campaigned for her. She lost.

2016-2020: Stacking the Supreme Court

On March 16, 2016, about eight months before the presidential election, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, refused to allow hearings, much less a confirmation vote. He invented a rationale that it was too close to an election and “the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.” When Trump won, we got Neil Gorsuch instead. In 2020, the hypocritical McConnell jammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett even though it was less than six weeks from Election Day and early voters had already begun casting ballots.

2016: Surrendering to Trump

Early on, some people thought Trump’s presidential campaign was a joke. Surely, they said, decent Republicans would reject someone who called Mexicans rapists, demanded a Muslim ban, mocked a disabled person, and insisted that John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he got captured. But Trump’s comments excited the most racist, sexist and cruel elements of the party, and supposedly moderate Republicans folded. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was the starkest example. In February 2016, Graham said of Trump: “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.” But by November 2017, Graham had done a complete 180: “What concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy some kind of kook not fit to be president.”

2020-21: Attempted coup

Republican determination to win at all costs had reached such a dangerous point that Trump – clear loser of the 2020 presidential election – insisted he had won in a “landslide” and was the victim of election fraud. The Republicans’ bizarre theories included a claim that votes were changed remotely via Italian satellites and that cheating occurred through software developed “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani accused two election workers in Atlanta of passing around a thumb drive as if it was “vials of heroin or cocaine.” In reality, one of the workers testified, it was a ginger mint.

When the Republicans’ bogus claims were thrown out of court dozens of times, Trump and his co-conspirators incited a violent attack on the Capitol to delay certification of the election and arranged for supporters to submit paperwork claiming to be electors when they weren’t.

It was an insurrection, an act of treachery unprecedented in U.S. history.

If Republican fascism isn’t stopped, it can happen again.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


When someone tells you they’re fascist, believe them.

By Mark Jacob

Right-wing rhetoric seems to get more radical and outrageous all the time.

Americans can be forgiven if they sometimes wonder: “Did they really say that? Maybe it’s made up. No one would really say that, would they?” Well, here are quotes that they really, really said. 

The takeaway: When fascists tell you they’re fascists, believe them. 

Donald Trump: “Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “We’re going to start slitting throats on Day 1.

Rep. Matt Gaetz: “We know that only through force can we make any change.

Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers: “We need to build more gallows.”

Rep. Andy Biggs: “We have now reached a war phase. An eye for an eye.

Rudy Giuliani: “Let’s have trial by combat.”

Steve Bannon: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Also Steve Bannon: Second term kicks off with firing [FBI chief Christopher] Wray, firing [health adviser Anthony] Fauci. Now, I actually want to go a step farther. … I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I’d put the heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “If Steve Bannon and I had organized that [Jan. 6], we would have won. Not to mention, it would have been armed.”

Joseph diGenova, Trump ally: “We are in a civil war.”

Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock:If the government continues to weaponize these departments against conservatives … someone’s going to get so pissed off, they’re going to shoot someone. Or we’re going have a civil war or some sort of revolution.”

Ex-Rep. Steve King: “America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry. After that comes Ft. Sumter.” 

Ex-Rep. Madison Cawthorn: “If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s gonna lead to one place, and that’s bloodshed.”

Kari Lake, defeated Arizona governor candidate: “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That’s not a threat, that’s a public service announcement.”

Ex-Rep. Louie Gohmert, after losing an election-challenge lawsuit: “In effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and [Black Lives Matter].”

Charlie Kirk, right-wing radio host: “Joe Biden … should honestly be put in prison and/or given the death penalty for his crimes against America.”

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser: Did you know that a governor can declare war? And we’re … probably going to see that.”

Also Michael Flynn: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert: “I’m tired of this ‘separation of church and state’ junk.”

Laura Loomer, Trump ally: “Muslims should not even be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country.”

Nick Fuentes, a neo-Nazi who dined with Trump: “You know what democracy has given us? Obesity. Low rates of literacy. It’s given us divorce, abortion, gay marriage, liberalism, pornography. … That’s what democracy has given us. Ghettos and crime and political correctness. Diversity. Yeah, the track record of democracy? Not so good.”

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


The News Media’s State of Denial

By Mark Jacob

PBS reported last week that Donald Trump “has adamantly denied any wrongdoing” in the classified documents case.

Why use the word “adamantly”?

Was PBS trying to suggest that Trump really, really, really meant it? Was it trying to come across as super-fair to Trump? Certainly, journalists should let someone deny a charge when they report that someone is accused of it. But why tart up the denial with an adverb that adds heft to their denial?   

Why say someone “strongly denied” something if you’re never going to say someone “weakly denied” something?

When news outlets enhance someone’s denial, they reward their performance. Newsmakers seem to get an extra-special denial from journalists if their voice trembles or their face gets flush.

The Washington Post said Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh “adamantly denied” Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her when they were young. But the Post never said Blasey Ford “adamantly accused” or “strongly accused” Kavanaugh. Did Kavanaugh earn an “adamantly” in the Post by getting weepy in front of Congress?

The New York Times recently said James Lewis, longtime suspect in the 1982 Tylenol murders in the Chicago area, “steadfastly denied” he had put poison in the pain reliever. “Steadfast” seems like an overly noble description of Lewis, who did prison time for trying to extort Tylenol’s manufacturer.

CBS News reported that Elizabeth Holmes “strongly denied” criminal charges before a jury convicted her in the Theranos blood-testing fraud case. Turns out, Holmes’ denial was “strong” but wrong.

It’s better to simply say the person “denied” it and leave it at that.

Of course, denials mean less these days, as political lies become increasingly common.

Testifying to Congress under oath recently, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denied being anti-vax, insisting: “I have never told the public to avoid vaccination.” But fact-checkers quickly put the lie to that, citing a 2021 podcast in which RFK Jr. said: “I see somebody on a hiking trail carrying a little baby and I say to him, better not get them vaccinated.”

And then there’s Trump. In a Truth Social post last December, Trump repeated his lie that the 2020 election was stolen and offered two immediate solutions: either he be declared the winner or a new election be held. He added: “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

The idea of “terminating” the Constitution raised eyebrows, but it should have raised much louder alarms in the nation’s newsrooms. Trump has gotten journalists so accustomed to his toxic rhetoric that they chronically under-react to it.

A day after calling for termination of the Constitution, Trump denied calling for termination of the Constitution. Telling us not to believe our lying eyes, he posted: “The Fake News is actually trying to convince the American People that I said I wanted to ‘terminate’ the Constitution. This is simply more DISINFORMATION & LIES.” 

Politico’s story about Trump’s absurd denial was headlined: “Trump denies he suggested ‘termination’ of Constitution, without deleting post.” That kind of headline did Trump a favor. A better headline would have been: “Trump’s denial is a lie: He indeed called for ‘termination’ of the Constitution.”

In recent years, Trump has “vigorously denied,” “angrily denied,” “strongly denied,” “repeatedly denied” and “emphatically denied.” But what if the news media put Trump’s denials in more context? What if they said, “Donald Trump, who made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements as president, denied …”?

That would be factually accurate and provide consumers with relevant information to help them assess the credibility of Trump’s denial. But of course it would come across as biased, so it will never happen.

That’s why right-wing disinformation is so effective: Mainstream news media don’t want to appear biased, even if it’s biased in favor of the truth.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


Democracy is on the ballot every single day

By Mark Jacob

There’s a contemporary view that we shouldn’t describe people as “bad” but instead should describe them as “people who make bad choices.”

As we approach an election in 15 months that may well decide whether authoritarianism snuffs out American democracy, let’s look at the choices people are facing and the bad choices they’re often making:



The brave choice: Call out serial liars, and use the word “lie” when a politician is repeatedly stating obvious falsehoods. Do your duty to the public by sounding the alarm about the fascist threat to our democracy. Don’t pretend this is normal.

The cowardly choice: “Both-sides” everything. Give equal weight to truth and lies to maintain the appearance of “fairness.” Treat Republicans and Democrats as equally honest or dishonest despite the facts. Avoid the word “lie” and use soft, cutesy language such as describing Trump’s dishonesty as his “casual relationship with the truth.”



The brave choice: Reject fascism even if it means not getting re-elected. A few Republican politicians such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — whose views on policy issues are clearly right-of-center — have kept faith with democracy by defying MAGA authoritarianism.  

The cowardly choice: Wring your hands in private, fully realizing that your party’s leaders are corrupt and dangerous, but parrot their outrageous lies in public so you keep getting re-elected. Lie, lie and lie some more. Go with the flow, even if it’s flowing toward the sewer.



The brave choice: Fight through disinformation to tell the truth and deliver the services that people deserve from their government. Keep faith with the values of democracy. Get things done.

The cowardly choice: Act like Republicans. 



The brave choice: Stand up for academic freedom and against book banning. Insist on teaching the history of systemic racism in America because, yes, there is such a thing. Keep insisting that gender studies and racial studies are legitimate areas of research. 

The cowardly choice: Knuckle under to politicians. Be so concerned with fundraising that you let right-wing donors make crucial policy decisions. Punish Black scholarship, as Texas A&M recently did. Select Sean Spicer as a visiting fellow, as Harvard did to reward him for lying to the public as Trump’s press secretary. Keep Fox News propagandist Maria Bartiromo on your board of trustees, as New York University has done.



The brave choice: Tell other followers of your religion how Trumpism conflicts with your religion’s ideals.

The cowardly choice: Tarnish your religion by associating it with Trumpism. Tell other followers it doesn’t matter if Trump is a con artist who cheated on his wife with a porn star because, after all, he supports the movement to force non-believers to live by Christian principles. Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffrees said right-wing Christians back Trump “because of his biblical policies, not his personal piety.” Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry described Trump as God’s “chosen one.” 



The brave choice: Insist on a diverse workforce and corporate responsibility on issues such as climate change. Follow the example of Disney by refusing to knuckle under to political pressure from fascist politicians like Ron DeSantis.

The cowardly choice: Keep paying off lawmakers to support policies that are good for your business but bad for the public’s health. Donate money to support authoritarian politicians, as the NBA’s Orlando Magic did with DeSantis even though the NBA is overwhelmingly Black and DeSantis wants to cover up America’s history of racism. 



The brave choice: Campaign for pro-democracy candidates and get out the vote. Act like the the survival of our system of government is at stake, because it is.

The cowardly choice: Do nothing.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


Deconstruction: Ron DeSantis Echoes Jefferson Davis In New Florida Policy

By Mark Jacob

Black people had it good in the antebellum South, according to Jefferson Davis. In a message to the Confederate Congress in 1861, the Southern leader said of the enslaved:  

“In moral and social conditions they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts (full dinner pails), but with careful religious instruction.”

The message hasn’t changed much in the intervening 162 years. Florida’s Board of Education, in line with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attacks on honest teaching about racism, decided last week that students should be taught that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

So, according to the state of Florida, slavery was a job training program.

You would think the issue was settled by the deadliest war in the nation’s history and that everyone realized slavery was an abomination in which rape, torture and family separation were routine. But no. Racists keep trying to rewrite history, describing the national stain as a beauty mark.

In 1900, the Washington Star reported that H.B. Frissel, who was head of the Hampton (Va.) Institute and received honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard, declared that “slavery was good in some things in that it taught the negro the English language, habits of industry and some religion.”

That same year, Winnie Davis wrote in the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch that “the southern people, as a whole, were not in favor of slavery, but being born into it, tried to make the most of it.” She argued that “American slavery was beneficial” compared to life in Africa, and that Black people owed their slaveholders “a debt of gratitude.”

Dr. R.R. Moton, a Black leader who led the Tuskegee Institute, gave support to this attitude in a 1922 speech in Georgia. According to a newspaper report, Moton said “negroes were fortunate in having been brought to this country.” (The accommodationist Moton was head of Tuskegee at the start of the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which Black men were not told they had syphilis nor treated for it but instead were tracked for scientific research. The atrocity didn’t end until the 1970s.)

Another strange theory about slavery, espoused in 1937 by North Carolina judge Robert Winston, was that slaveholders were the victims. “He takes the view that, as a whole, slavery was good for the negroes but bad for the whites,” reported the Springfield (Mass.) Republican.

These examples (and there are more out there) show that the DeSantis administration’s whitewashing of the history of slavery is nothing new.

But it does blow up the Republican assertion that there’s no such thing as systemic racism in this country. When you can draw a straight line from Jefferson Davis to Ron DeSantis, there’s systemic racism.

Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.


10 Questions CNN Should Ask Ron DeSantis

By Mark Jacob

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday afternoon – his first such sit-down with CNN since he announced his presidential campaign.

Both DeSantis and CNN have a lot at stake. DeSantis’ campaign has been struggling, and CNN is still trying to get viewers to forget its disastrous town hall with Donald Trump in May.

Here are 10 questions CNN should ask DeSantis:

  1. On Sunday, you indicated that while you opposed cuts in Social Security benefits for current seniors, you were open to cuts “for people in their 30s or 40s.” Don’t you think people who are less than two decades away from retirement should be uneasy about talk like that?
  2. In March 2022, you described the wearing of masks as “Covid theater” that was “not doing anything” to prevent the spread of disease. This goes against research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others. Why do you reject scientific findings on this issue?
  3. Last year you said of former chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci: “Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.” Don’t you think it’s irresponsible to urge violence against Fauci, especially after he’s been the target of death threats?
  4. Why was it in the best interest of Florida taxpayers to spend $615,000 of the state’s money to fly nearly 50 undocumented immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts?
  5. Why have you declared political war against your state’s largest employer, Disney, to such an extent that it cancelled a $1 billion development that would have created 2,000 jobs?
  6. You’ve led a movement that has resulted in the banning of hundreds of books in Florida schools, including novels by acclaimed writers Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood. Did books harm you when you were a child?
  7. Your role as a Navy lawyer at the Guantanamo prison has raised questions. You admitted in 2018 that you were among the people who suggested force-feeding suspected terrorists there, a practice that many human rights group consider torture. A former detainee claims that you attended his force-feeding session. In April, you angrily called that “BS.” What role exactly did you play in the force-feeding of prisoners at Gitmo?
  8. Your campaign recently posted a homophobic video casting you as a warrior against LGBTQ people. After widespread criticism, the video was taken down. Do you have any LGBTQ friends?
  9. You have been very evasive about whether you agree with Donald Trump that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, despite all the evidence that Joe Biden in fact won a fair election. Do you think Biden was legitimately elected?
  10. (If DeSantis evades the question yet again …) Do you think Joe Biden was legitimately elected? We’re going to keep asking that question until you answer it, even if we have to skip the next commercial break.
Mark Jacob, a former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune and co-author of eight books, is a consultant for Courier Newsroom.