What Is Upstream From Culture?

In the book After the Ball, psychologist Marshall Kirk and ad man Hunter Madsen painted a picture of what the gay rights movement should do to normalize and advance their agenda in America. The book came out in 1990. Kirk and Madsen treated their book as a manifesto and we have witnessed their vision.

The propaganda effort the authors set out included inserting gay men and women into Hollywood to start writing shows with gay positive characters, then make gay characters normal characters on shows. They would get friends in the media to positively cover the gay rights movement. Advertisers would feature gay men and women in advertisements as an ideal. Gay celebrities would be championed. Churches too would be involved, with liberal churches rejecting Christian orthodoxy championed and those that kept the faith vilified.

“Constant talk builds the impression that public opinion is at least divided on the subject, and that a sizable bloc – the most modern, up-to-date citizens – accept or even practice homosexuality,” they wrote. They wanted to be portrayed as victims too. “The purpose of victim imagery is to make straights feel very uncomfortable; that is, to jam with shame the self-righteous pride that would ordinarily accompany and reward their antigay belligerence, and to lay groundwork for the process of conversion by helping straights identify with gays and sympathize with their underdog status.”

Likewise, the very unproven idea of orientation as something you are born with, for which science still offers nothing, had to be normalized. The authors wrote, “To suggest in public that homosexuality might be chosen is to open the can of worms labeled ‘moral choices and sin’ and give the religious intransigents a stick to beat us with. Straights must be taught that it is as natural for some persons to be homosexual as it is for others to be heterosexual: wickedness and seduction have nothing to do with it.”

All of this was written in 1989 and the book published in 1990. The implementation of their manifesto has been wildly successful. When people talk about sexual orientation as something we are all born with, we are fulfilling the wish of that manifesto, not talking about anything founded in science.

I bring up this book because I keep hearing people say culture is upstream from politics. What happens in culture flows into our politics. But After the Ball should serve as a reminder that there are things upstream from culture and often those things are well orchestrated public relations campaigns designed to reshape culture and reshape our thinking.

Using the media, activists on the left truly do aim to divide up this country. Gun owners are increasingly portrayed as a hostile, rogue fringe by the media. Christians are now intolerant bigots who must be stamped out. Large families are bad too. Their carbon footprint must be reduced. Culture is being shaped by PR and the media is so busy generating outrage for clicks and revenue it does not realize it is being played. But of course some of the media is complicit.

“At a later stage of the media campaign for gay rights—long after other gay ads have become commonplace—it will be time to get tough with remaining opponents,” Kirk and Madsen wrote. “To be blunt, they must be vilified.”

The gay rights movement has been normalized through a well orchestrated PR campaign. Those of us who dissent are not only now routinely referred to as bigots, but also increasingly unwelcome on the public stage. It took time on this issue, but the political left in America has lost patience on other fronts. From transgenderism to guns to climate change, the left has moved straight to Kirk and Madsen’s final solution: the vilification and ostracization of dissent.

They have had to go there rapidly because the new fronts in the efforts to change culture are running into common sense. It is hard to convince any sane person that boys can become girls or that snow in April is caused by global warming. So you must be bullied into belief. Bullies with well funded public relations teams are upstream from culture.

The Relevant Point About the John Kelly Story

I do not think it is relevant whether or not General John Kelly referred to the President as an idiot. I think it is entirely plausible and I have no doubt the NBC News reporters have sources inside and outside the White House saying these things to them. The reporters say they have eight sources inside and outside the White House. I’d be curious how many of those eight are in the White House. That said, I don’t think Kelly saying these things is the relevant point here, whether or not he actually said them.
The relevant and notable point is that there are people inside and outside the White House yet again plotting to get Kelly ousted. We tend to have these stories come up now with metronomic consistency. The moment they start to die down, they suddenly get fired back up. This comes on the heels of the Ronny Jackson nomination, and I suspect the President blames Kelly in part for how that went. In fact, we have the drip, drip, drip of another story today that Mike Pence’s doctor had warned Kelly of problems and the media helpfully adds that this is similar to the Rob Porter story.
We saw the “President sours on Kelly” stories then too. This is a very consistent pattern on the part of one or more people (eight of them according to NBC News) who want John Kelly fired for their own agenda. And that, my friends, is the big story here. Yet again, people inside the White House are maneuvering for power. Figure out who Kelly has marginalized and you’ll figure out the sources.

The Georgia Gubernatorial Primary Picks Up Steam

Five candidates are running for the Georgia Republican nomination to succeed Governor Nathan Deal. Whoever gets the nomination will have one distinction neither Deal nor Perdue had. The Republican nominee will be the first actual lifelong Republican elected governor in Georgia.
I say that intentionally. Democrats are convinced a blue wave will wash over Georgia. I do not think it will go as high as the statewide offices. Georgia will see the Republican numbers in the state legislature reduced in the metro Atlanta area, which will, in turn, be bad for various metro areas policy-wise, but the statewide offices will stay Republican.
Democrats have blessed the GOP with Stacey Abrams, who is a very strong candidate and far more charming and personable than most in the GOP would have you believe. But she is also very much on the left and is surrounded with supporters and donors who the GOP will use to scare voters. And they will be effective in that.
Of the five would be governors, three seem to have the most likely shot of getting into an inevitable runoff. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle will be assured a spot in the runoff. He has been elected statewide twice as Lt. Governor. He has served in the State Senate since the Gingrich revolution days of the mid-90’s. A who’s who of establishment Republicans like him so much that he is repeatedly forced in his ads to refer to himself as “conservative Casey Cagle” as if “conservative” is his first name. Cagle’s biggest asset, his tenure, is also his biggest weakness. Lt. Governors tend to stand in the shadow of the Governor and have few accomplishments of their own. Cagle has worked hard to get those accomplishments but will be attacked relentlessly over what his opponents say is a long tenure as a career politician with nothing to show for it. He has about ten million dollars to show them in response and will use every penny to win.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp will most likely join Cagle in the runoff. The only other person running with statewide name identification and a statewide office, Kemp is a natural everyman. Cagle dresses sharply as someone who once owned a suit shop. Kemp is more comfortable in jeans. Kemp has done a competent job as Secretary of State, but there are issues some would portray as scandals. His predecessors allowed a local university to maintain voter data and that university did not secure the data. When the elections office sent out voter data, it contained the social security numbers of all voters. Kemp’s office quickly corrected it, but the damage to his reputation took a hit. Abrams has already battled Kemp in court over voter registration. Kemp has, to some degree, been a victim of the incompetence of local officials in the metro Atlanta area. His office got the blame for their mistakes.
Former State Senator Hunter Hill is a conservative Republicans who won a district Hillary Clinton also won. It is the Buckhead area of Atlanta and is the swing district of swing districts in the state. It is notable that most of the conservative legislators in the Georgia General Assembly are rallying to Hill. His opponents have been attacking him for the cold shoulder given by the NRA. He got a “C” when he first ran for office. He says it was because he screwed up a question on their survey. He has an “A” now but controversially did not get an endorsement from the NRA in 2016. He says it was intentional to avoid riling up the Democrats in his district and that it worked. He has weak name identification outside the Atlanta area, but with the Atlanta area turning out so large, that won’t matter too much.
Clay Tippins, like Hill, is a veteran. He is also a businessman who entered the race promising to bring business proficiency to the office. He is a self-made man, but his financial disclosures suggest he does not have as much spare money to put into his campaign as some first thought. Likewise, his advertising has been well designed, but also expensive. His media consultants are charging him a great deal. Tippins’ message has resonated in the business community across the state, and though he has lower name identification than Cagle, Kemp, and Hill, he has done a marvelous job boosting his name within the business community. Tippins has been hurt a bit by his patent refusal to support a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia, but he smartly offset it by being the only candidate to pledge to fight human trafficking. It also has the benefit of being an authentic concern. Tippins and his wife have fought to raise awareness on that issue for several years and care passionately about it.
State Senator Michael Williams is running a bit of an odd campaign. Just four years ago or so, Williams beat the incumbent Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The Chamber of Commerce in Georgia not only opposed Williams, but an offshoot political branch of the local Chamber literally printed mail pieces against Williams accusing him of beating his wife. It was a nasty campaign. Since getting elected, Williams and the Chamber have mended fences, but he has been a pretty reliable social conservative in the State Senate. He is now, however, not really running on his record and his small business acumen. Williams is a serial entrepreneur with a lot of personal cash and a compelling story. But he is running as mini-Trump, holding rallies outside schools to protest liberal teachers, etc. His campaign has been outlandish and does not really reflect the authentic Williams. It has so far failed to attract people, and I continue to think it is a strategic miscalculation.
I listed the candidates in the order above because it reflects the Atlanta Journal-Constitution polling. Cagle has just over 40% of the support with Kemp at 9%, Hill at 8%, and both Tippins and Williams around 4%. About a third of voters are undecided. That is great news for Cagle, but with such high name identification and a third of voters undecided it could also be a weakness for Cagle in the runoff. That is why I suspect it will get very nasty very quickly after the primary concludes.
Cagle became Lt. Governor in 2006 after battling Ralph Reed in one of the nastiest fights in Georgia political history. Cagle savaged Reed, bashing him constantly and relentlessly for all sorts of ethical transgressions. It was a constant stream of negativity and worked. Reed was radioactive, and the guy with lower name identification beat the guy everyone knew. Cagle’s consultant in that race now works for Brian Kemp. Cagle and Kemp both have millions more than the other guys. Cagle has run a rather positive campaign with some savvy positioning in the last legislative session (Delta v. the NRA). Kemp is only just now spending his money having gambled, probably correctly, that he should wait till the end and secure his place in the runoff.
Once the primary ends on May 22nd, we are off to the real races. The Georgia Republican primary has been pretty quiet. It probably will be for the next few weeks. Then we will see some scorched earth.

Your Podcast Still Sucks. But You Can Still Make it Better.

Having taken to listening to various podcasts out there if only in hopes of finding some unique talent, I wrote a piece on some basic improvements you can do for your podcast.

Audio quality is one of the most crucial. If I’m listening to a podcast in my car, it can be a bit more forgiving, but with the rise of high quality headphones a lot of people are listening to podcasts during exercise or on a plane or elsewhere and all the echos and miscellaneous sounds filter in to ruin the experience.

I want to talk about two other things now to continue helping you improve.

First, let me recommend two podcasts, one is just an episode and the other is a show. Not just because he mentioned me, go listen to this conversation between Jonah Goldberg and Ben Sasse. The Remnant is growing on me now that Jonah has figured out his intro music. If you don’t want to listen to Sasse talking to Jonah about Jonah’s tattoo and Big Foot erotica, you can even go listen to Scott Lincicome, who can talk about economics without putting you to sleep.

As an aside, if you want a unique bit of intro music, there are several resources you can use. Go search Soundsnap, SongFreedom, MusicBed, PremiumBeat, and Pond5. Stop using well known songs. It just drives up the pretentiousness factor. Also, pick one and stick to it. You need to brand your show and the music plays a part in that. For example, if you’ve never heard my show intro, it’s a mix of Arcade Fire’s Wake Up with the Apollo 11 countdown. It has gotten so recognizable in Atlanta that I hear from listeners all the time who are in bars or elsewhere, hear the start of that song, and think I’m about to come on the radio. Even worse is when I hear it and think I’m late to work.

Now, back to Jonah’s podcast. He interviews interesting people about interesting topics. There are two types of interviews, passive and active. A passive interview is where you let someone talk and steer their conversation. But they’re driving the show. An active one is where you, the host, actively participate in an exchange of ideas. Jonah does a good job at both in conversations. You can tell there are times he knows as much about a topic as a guest and pushes back on certain things. There are times he does not know something and is genuinely asking for information. He does a good job of making sure it is information you would want to know and I suspect it is because it is stuff Jonah wants to know for himself. Also, I think all of Jonah’s interviews are face to face, which helps with the conversation flow.

The other one I want to recommend is my favorite podcast and the one I listen to most regularly. It is called The Talk Show. It is a tech podcast mostly focused on Apple, with occasional wild deviations into baseball, cocktails, and random stuff. Fair warning, if you’re reading this, you probably will disagree vehemently with John Gruber, those host, on political matters, though he rarely talks politics. You should still listen to at least an episode of the podcast. I recommend this most recent one with Matthew Panzarino from Tech Crunch on Panzarino’s report about about the new Mac Pro coming in 2019.

Now, I listen to The Talk Show because I’m a fan of John’s site, Daring Fireball, and I like Apple products and baseball. That’s not why I want you to listen.

Listen because John does two things more people should do. First, he cold opens. There is no introductory music to make his show sound more high minded than it is. Second, his guest is never face to face with him. It’s always remote with both sides recording the audio and mixing it together.

My one major gripe with John’s show that I just find funny at this point is his show would be much shorter but his ad reads take forever. There’s some guy who keeps a running total of the length of John’s podcasts. Someone else could keep track of the length of his ad reads. It’s actually pretty funny.

Why listen to these pretty different shows? A few reasons.

First, in listening to a bunch of podcasts, I’ve noticed that many go into them with friends and do not have a damn clue about an agenda. They’re just talking about their day, the crazy things that happened, and give no rationale for why I should tune in. When they do get to what they want to talk about, most often they are providing no new insight, are not making me think, and are regurgitating conventional wisdom they’ve found on social media.

Outline what you want to talk about. Confessionally, I do not always do that these days, but then I’ve been doing radio for seven years now. Still, on busy news days I do a rudimentary outline. I use the Notes app on my Mac and I share it with my producer. Some stories have links because I’m afraid I’ll forget details. But generally, it is just a list of things I want to talk about. Rarely does the order ever actually stay the same on the show as in the notes, but it helps me focus on busy news days.

A podcast needs an agenda. You and your guest should have some idea of what you are going to talk about and the order of things. You should not be getting together to talk about the weather unless you’re a weather podcast and I could not care less what you had for lunch unless it is relevant to the topic at hand.

Second, both Jonah and John have some basic mastery of the art of conversation. They have an agenda of things they want to cover, they know about the topics themselves and can add to the topics, they are humorous and self-deprecating so as not to take themselves too seriously, and they are entertaining. After all, I am listening to a podcast because I want to learn something, but ultimately I want to be entertained. If you can’t hold a conversation, there’s no point.

I highlight John’s podcast because he makes the audio work. It is not always perfect. But he works to balance the sound on both sides and make the quality good. He occasionally has a guest whose sound is not great, but most tech writers are also podcasters these days and all have pretty good setups so there is no room echo.

Jonah and John are both talking about topics they are genuinely interested in and have genuine curiosity about. As a result, they are engaging, informative, and flexible in steering the conversation. They are not afraid to go down rabbit holes, but they are organized enough to get back out of the hole. Because they are interested in the topics, they make me interested in the topics. They are not having a podcast for the sake of it. They are doing it because they have an infectious intellectual curiosity about the topics. You must have an infectious intellectual curiosity. You must make me want to stick around, be entertained, and learn.

If you’re asking questions for the sake of asking questions and not actually having a conversation, there’s no point to you doing it. You are wasting your time and mine.

Third, and most importantly, once you have built up a relationship with your listeners, then you can deviate. Once you’ve made me care about you, please feel free to tell me about your life so I can become more emotionally invested. We don’t need all the details. But once you’ve built up your audience, you can share. Occasionally, the things happening in your life do turn into really interesting topics. As an example, my wife became really frustrated helping our daughter with math a couple of years ago. I had been on radio long enough to know my listeners had a sense of who I was and my family situation. So I started talking about that issue and could relate it to the debate over Common Core. I got so many calls from so many people my entire show wound up being that one topic. It connected with people.

I am a bit fortunate in that I work for a radio company that studies the hell out of its shows. I know, for example, that my listeners say they’d prefer me not to talk about recipes on air. But I also know I can get away with it on occasion, for short periods of time, because though they prefer other topics they know it interests me and I have a good relationship with my audience. If you want to see what that’s like, come hang out with me in Atlanta and see me get randomly stopped by complete strangers who want to know how long it takes to brown an onion (not kidding on that, by the way).

Not everyone needs a podcast and we are about to be flooded with podcasts because media companies have decided they can make more money off podcasts than web advertising and advertisers have not really quite figured out how to monetize the effort. These podcasts are going to have great production value and audio quality. So if you want to stand out, master the art of thoughtful conversation and have an organizational flow to your show that does not waste the listener’s time.

James Comey Really Does Not Matter

I know James Comey’s publisher wants him to matter. I know James Comey wants himself to matter. And I know there are some television hosts who want James Comey to matter. But Comey does not matter.

He shot his credibility with how he handled the Clinton matter. Then he further shot his credibility with his leaks, etc. against the President. In his ABC News interview and his book, Comey has said nothing new and he offered an opinion of the President that was well circulated from others in the 2016 campaign.

Comey thinking President Trump is a stain on the presidency and a liar is what a good number of Americans thought in 2016. But Trump still won. Comey thinking Trump operates as a mob boss is what many people, myself included, said in 2016. But Trump still won.

James Comey simply does not matter. He has offered nothing really new and nothing very original.

What matters is President Trump and his actions. If the President fires Rod Rosenstein, he will further alienate Republicans in Congress. If he fires Robert Mueller, he will probably get himself impeached sooner rather than later.

But if the President keeps on as he is and nothing really changes, nothing will happen to him. The left is peddling conspiracies of the Cabinet ousting the President or the GOP impeaching him or even the Democrats impeaching him. None of that is going to happen in the present status quo.

All the cards in the President’s hands and his actions are what matter. James Comey is yesterday’s news.

James Comey is the Cambridge Analytica Story

Remember the pink haired, liberal, gay dude who confessed all his sins about Cambridge Analytica? He is James Comey.

What happened in that story was a leftwing guy got embedded among conservatives. Those conservatives beat the left. So the guy had to tell the left the leftwing fan fiction they wanted to hear about the evil conservatives and Mercer family in order to be welcomed back into polite society.

Everything you knew just had to be true was true in his telling. He was a genius and the Cambridge Analytica team did massively illegal things to cause Trump to win and he is so sorry. Never mind that it simply wasn’t true and Cambridge Analytica really did nothing majorly unique and certainly didn’t do anything illegal with the Facebook data.

This is the story of confession and repentance that had to be told so the guy could rejoin his tribe.

That is what is happening with Comey. Everything you believe is true in your fan faction is true if that will help Comey be welcomed back into polite society without the scorn of causing Hillary to lose.

This is, let us not forget, the man the left blames for Hillary’s loss. How ever will he be welcomed back into polite society and allowed to walk the halls of Ivy League campuses without being assaulted? By telling the left what they want to hear about Trump.

Comey’s book is an act of confession and redemption. The truth does not matter. What the left wants to be true is what matters. He will tell them what they want to hear and maybe then he can go teach at Harvard without Black Lives Matter and the women-gender studies professors protesting.

Diamond, Silk, Facebook, and Facts

Republicans in Congress have certainly made a lot of hay out of Facebook’s handling of the Diamond and Silk situation and I got curious after I tweeted out asking if anyone had seen the actual correspondence between them and Facebook. Few had. Now that I have, I think Facebook made some mistakes, but that it was not intentional, not malicious, and not nearly as bad as it seemed.

For starters, did you realize this all started in September of 2017 and applied across Facebook, not just to Diamond and Silk? That’s when Facebook released its new guidelines on monetization, which you can read here.

But Diamond and Silk say they never got communication and when they went public, Facebook reached out. Facebook concedes they might not have gotten proper notice so Facebook sent emails to their private addresses they used for their Facebook accounts, but then followed up with their public email contact points. Facebook tried reaching them before they went public on Fox.

Here’s the email sent on April 9, 2018, at 4:46pm.

From: Neil Potts
Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 4:46 PM
To:
Subject: Facebook: Diamond and Silk Page

Dear Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson,

First off, we want to apologize for having mishandled communications with you over the last six months. I can only imagine how frustrating this process has been for you. Moreover, the note you received last week was inaccurate and not reflective of the way we communicate with our community and the people who run Pages on our platform.

I wanted to explain what happened to your Page and identify specific steps to prevent a recurrence of these issues moving forward.

In September 2017, we introduced Monetization Eligibility Standards, providing clearer guidance around the types of publishers and creators that are eligible to earn money on Facebook, along with guidelines on the kind of content that can be monetized. This update applied to those using Instant Articles, Branded Content, and Ad Breaks.

We did not properly communicate these policies to you. As a result, you could not have known that the video content on your Page was not in line with our eligibility standards and did not qualify for monetization features.

We are eliminating the restrictions associated with your Page so that you can apply to monetize content. This will include the ability to apply to utilize products such as Branded Content and Instant Articles. As is the case for all advertisers seeking to run ads on our platform, each time you want to monetize your content, the content must be reviewed against our eligibility standards. We are here to be a resource to you in the future should you have any questions on monetization or content-related issues.

Separately, we understand you have questions about the audience reach for content posted on your Page. There are thousands of signals that get factored into how content is ranked in News Feed, and there are two issues, in particular, that are likely affecting your Page’s distribution:

1. We’ve made recent changes to News Feed that affect the reach of public Pages. We updated News Feed to help people meaningfully connect with friends and family. As News Feed shifts to prioritize posts from friends, public Pages of all types are more likely to experience declines.

2. We have had a policy in place since 2016 to reduce stories from sources that consistently post clickbait headlines. Your Page has higher-than-normal clickbait scores, which is another reason you are seeing reduced distribution. We’ve posted publishing best practices to which Page owners can refer to avoid issues like this.

Neither of these issues affect the personal News Feed Preferences that your fans may select. We know you have beloved fans who follow your Page and look forward to seeing your posts when they visit Facebook. They can mark the Diamond And Silk Page as “See First” to make sure your content appears towards the top of their News Feed every time you post something new.

We sincerely apologize again for the mishandled communications and are available and eager to connect by phone to review outstanding questions you may have.

Thank you,
Neil Potts
Product Policy, Facebook

That email was then forwarded to the public accounts via this email at 9:45pm on April 9th:

Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:45 PM
To:
Subject: Facebook: Diamond and Silk Page

Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson,

I previously sent the following email to the accounts you had on file, and I am now resending it to your Diamond and Silk email account as well. I look forward to catching up at your earliest convenience.

Regards,

Neil

Facebook comms folks tell me that they then tried to reach Diamond and Silk by phone twice on April 10th to no avail.

That night, Diamond and Silk went on television to claim they had never heard from Facebook.

During that whole time their site was up and getting comments. There was no apparent suppression and no targeting of their site.

Facebook does tell me that “In September 2017, we updated policies around how Pages like Diamond and Silk could monetize their content – we did not properly communicate these policies to them. As a result, they could not have known that they may face new guidelines around what content they could monetize.”

When Facebook realized it screwed up, it did its best to connect Diamond and Silk with the right team, assure them they were not targeted, and make the situation right.

I think two things are important here. First, Facebook acknowledges it did screw up, but that when contacted it did reach out and made attempts via email, Facebook messenger, and phone.

I come away from this all thinking that Diamond and Silk were intentionally targeted is wrong. There was a problem, but it got fixed and had nothing to do with their politics. In fact, according to Crowdtangle data, Diamond and Silk’s Facebook page has seen a significant increase in interaction this week – they have not been censored as some are claiming.

Oh, the Facebook folks I talked to said they’d appreciate it if Diamond and Silk would return their emails or phone calls so they can get the situation resolved. Operators are standing by.