Category Archives: Media

Virginia Voters Tilt Mildly Right — Why Can’t Conservatives Win More Elections?

Question: Overall, would you say things in the UNITED STATES are heading more in the right direction or the wrong direction?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia voters describe themselves as ideologically moderate, leaning conservative, according to a new poll by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University. Asked to place themselves on a 0-10 scale (liberal to conservative) with 5.0 being middle of the road, the 1,008 voters polled rated themselves 5.83 on average. Independents, the swing vote, pegged themselves at 5.72.

An obvious question arises: Why can’t conservatives win statewide elections in Virginia?

One possibility is that voters perceive Republicans as more conservative than they see Democrats as liberal. Respondents rated the Democratic Party as 1.97 points off the middle-of-the-road 5.0 mark nor while they rated Republicans as 2.45 points off the norm.

This raises a subsidiary question: Is the perception of Republicans as more extreme based on objective fact, an artifact of the parties’ messaging, or a distortion created by media misrepresentation? Continue reading

Ball of Confusion

by James A. Bacon

Virginians are still suffering from massive confusion about what the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is proposing for its controversial Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative. The befuddlement arises from the use of various words that are seeming synonyms but have precise, different meanings when used by educators.

Two columns appearing in my inbox this morning illustrated the continued inability to get the story straight: one published by the Washington Post, which quotes James F. Lane, state superintendent for public instruction, and one by the Virginia Star, which cites VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle.

Here is the root of the problem. “Tracking” means one thing. “Accelerated pathway” means another. “Advanced courses” means another. Lane and Pyle are choosing their words very carefully. But journalists are missing the nuances. Continue reading

VPM and the ACLU Descend into Madness

Taylor Marie Maloney

by James A. Bacon

Only one Richmond news outlet, Virginia Public Media, has written about the controversy engendered by the hateful online language of Taylor Maloney, president of the Virginia Commonwealth University student government. No surprise, the angle of the VPM report was not how Taylor tweeted, “i hate white people so much its not even funny” and advocated the killing of police, but the “harassment” that Taylor, a Black non-binary transgender activist, has received from irate right-wing bloggers.

Maloney’s propensity for violent and racist rhetoric was outed, so to speak, by Andy Ngo, a conservative journalist writing in an online publication, The Post Millennial.

Maloney, who goes by the pronouns them/they, has adopted various personas on Twitter, including “fuck off honkeys” and “cancel cultural worker.” When a follower of the black nationalist Nation of Islam group rammed his car into Capitol Police, killing one of the officers on April 2, Maloney celebrated his death. “[L]ove this we need more of this,” “they” tweeted. Continue reading

VMPI Would Eliminate Tracked Courses

No, despite the uncanny similarity, that is not a senior VDOE official. That’s a weasel, commonly found along the James River.

by James A. Bacon

Yes, Virginia, it looks like the Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative (VMPI) does seek to do away with “tracked” courses in which quicker and slower learners attend separate classes geared to their abilities. Gifted students would be given “extension topics” that would allow them to explore concepts that would not otherwise be covered in the one-size-fits-all math curriculum.

While insisting that VMPI still will allow “accelerated courses,” which have a different meaning from “tracked classes,” James Lane and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) officials have studiously avoided telling the public how the initiative would do away with tracked courses. Reporters who regurgitated Lane’s rhetoric during a press conference earlier this week were too dim-witted to ask him what he meant by “accelerated.”

Now comes a document of “School Board Talking Points,” dated April 26, under the masthead of Fairfax County Public Schools. I am told that it was distributed to every math department in the school system. Here is the smoking gun:

The proposed design provides students a path to explore mathematics in a way that meets their needs without having to take a different course than their grade-level peers.

Continue reading

Newspapers: Words Still Matter

by Kerry Dougherty

After 42 years in newspapers, having dedicated my adult life to that once-proud industry, I now read papers with a sense of dread. All too often that turns to disgust.

Rarely do I stumble on a newspaper piece that delights anymore.

The reasons are many, and you’ve heard them all before: Newspapers, which once were flush with money, are circling the drain. Staffing is down sharply, senior writers and editors have been pushed out the door and the journalists left behind are overworked and often inexperienced.

Beyond that, there has been a seismic shift in the world of news. Where once reporters were expected to strive for objectivity, they are now allowed to sprinkle commentary into headlines and stories.

Hand me any newspaper and I’ll find you an example in under five minutes. Continue reading

Journalism, Confirmation Bias and the Presumption of Racism

Windsor police officer Joe Guttierez addresses Caron Nazario after their infamous confrontation. Presumed racist until proven innocent.

by James A. Bacon

People believe what they want to believe. They seek information that affirms their worldview, and they downplay or ignore evidence that conflicts with it. Psychologists have term for this proclivity: “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is extremely well documented in the psychological literature. Everyone falls prey to it. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how well educated you are. Indeed, the higher a person’s IQ and education level, the more adept one is at explaining away data that does not conform with his or her beliefs.

As a facet of human nature, confirmation bias has been with us always. But the rise of social media and cable news has compounded the problem by making it easier than ever for people to find views and facts they find comfortable and to not only dispel disconcerting information but to avoid even hearing it in the first place.

The scholars, journalists, artists, and politicians who dominate the cultural discourse in the United States are prone to confirmation bias like everyone else. But their views carry more weight because they control most of the news media, social media platforms, book publishers, academia, social-scientific research, television, movies, museums, nonprofit advocacy groups, and increasingly, K-12 schools. To the extent that there is no escaping the anecdotal facts and images that they highlight and project as reality, their confirmation biases become society’s confirmation biases. Their narratives become society’s narratives. Continue reading

The Roanoke Times Downsizes… Again

The Roanoke Times building went up for sale in January.

by James A. Bacon

The Roanoke Times is laying off nine newsroom employees, resulting in a 20% decrease in staffing, reports Virginia Business. Both Henri Gendreau, who covered the Virginia Tech beat, and Claire Mitzel, who covered K-12 schools, were informed that April 23 will be their last day. The two reporters broke the story about several racial episodes at Virginia Military Institute (and did a far more creditable job, incidentally, than The Washington Post.)

The newspaper also is laying off a digital editor, a copy editor, and three editorial assistants who contributed to local sports coverage. Including previous cuts, the Roanoke Times has lost more than 25% of its newsroom employees since early 2020 when the paper was purchased by Iowa-based Lee Enterprises. The newspaper is the dominant provider of news coverage in western Virginia.

I keep hoping that the long-term decline in newspaper readership and advertising revenue will bottom out, that newspaper publishers will find a sustainable business model based on paid subscriptions and digital advertising that strips out the costs associated with printing, newspaper distribution and print ads. No one seems to have found the formula yet. Continue reading

Ad Promoting Free-Speech Post Squelched

Screen grab from Facebook ad administration page

Thanks to the financial support of our generous readers, Bacon’s Rebellion has begun promoting popular posts on Facebook with the goal of driving traffic to the website. Faceless Facebook minions review each ad before it can be published. Not surprisingly, any text with “COVID” appears to be automatically rejected, even when we’re not opining on the efficacy of official state and federal guidelines. More surprising was the recent rejection of an ad promoting a recent post, When “Words Are Violence,” Only One Side Gets to Speak, about free speech and expression at the University of Virginia.

At the risk of provoking Facebook, our most promising marketing vehicle, I am posting an image of the rejection notice, which appeared with no explanation. I feel fortunate that Facebook has not nixed any of posts on the Bacon’s Rebellion Facebook page — only the ads. I’m hoping that doesn’t change. We’ll see. The situation is fluid. Continue reading

Distrust Simplistic Narratives about Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Credit: CBS News

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has long made an issue of the rise in hate crimes and white supremacy, which he has conflated as largely one and the same. As he runs a tough campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, he continues to put hate crimes front and center. Besides re-launching a section on the attorney general’s website, Herring is leading a virtual discussion with AGs from other states on the hate crime topic du jour, the rise of anti-Asian hate, this afternoon. You can tune in here at 1:00 p.m.

“This rise in violence and hate against Asian Americans must stop,” proclaims Herring on the NoHateVa website. “It has been fueled by the hateful anti-Asian rhetoric that has plagued our country over the past year, at times even coming from the highest office in the country” — a barely disguised allusion to former President Trump who supposedly, by insisting upon referring to the COVID-19 virus as the Wuhan Flu, Kung Flu or China virus, stimulated the current wave of anti-Asian rhetoric.

Given the polarization and vitriol of political discourse these days, I am prepared to believe that hate crimes have increased over the past year. And I would not be surprised if the surge is tied in part to a spread in white supremacist ideology on the right-wing fringes. But I suspect that the phenomenon is far more complex than commonly understood. And, until Herring can offer more than anecdotal evidence plucked from headlines around the country, I am not inclined to accept his interpretation of what is happening in Virginia. Continue reading

Democracy Dies in Fake Quotes

by Kerry Dougherty

There are no words for the disgust I feel for The Washington Post right now.

Oh, it’s been listing left for years, eagerly reporting negative news about conservatives and their causes, while offering tongue baths to liberals.

But printing fabricated quotes to damage the president? That’s a new low.

Now we KNOW The Post printed lies about President Trump. And waited more than two months to correct them. Long after the damage was done.

How do we know it? The Post admitted it.

Remember the second impeachment of Donald Trump? Remember some of what was alleged? That he meddled in the Georgia elections, that he ordered officials there to “find the fraud” for him down there, that he promised an investigator that she’d be a “national hero” if she found the votes?

Here’s an inexcusably belated correction to that Washington Post scoop: Continue reading

Dissecting the Washington Post’s Latest Hit Job on VMI

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post needs to adopt a new motto: “We cherry pick the news so you don’t have to.”

The Post, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Virginia, committed itself last year to the narrative that Virginia Military Institute is a place where African-Americans are subjected to “relentless racism.” The WaPo’s reporting prompted Governor Ralph Northam to hire the Barnes & Thornburg law firm to conduct an “equity audit” and “investigation” of racism at VMI.

Barnes & Thornburg released its interim report Monday. It was a nuanced document, presenting testimony of eight individuals who had either been called the n-word or heard the offensive term used over the past 25 years, but also quoting alumni and cadets as saying that they have never heard the word used at VMI. Moreover, the investigators raised the possibility that attitudes among cadets, which some have interpreted as bias against African-Americans, might also be understood as resentment against athletes, predominantly African-American, who enjoy privileges and exemptions that other cadets do not.

Post writer Ian Shapira shamelessly extracted from the report statements that reinforced the narrative that he’d created in previous articles that VMI is a racist hell hole, and ignored statements that conflicted with the narrative. Here was the lead to his story: Continue reading

Scrap Art Genius Sam Hundley Debuts First Book

Sam Hundley, author/illustrator of “Gifts of the Magpie,” photographed on the Chesapeake Bay beach in Ocean View, Norfolk, VA, Oct. 17, 2019. Photo by Randall Greenwell.

by Kerry Dougherty

Remember when The Virginian-Pilot was a thing of beauty?

When the graphics that accompanied the hard-hitting news stories were so dazzling that they were what grabbed your attention?

Remember when newspapers around the country imitated what we were doing in Norfolk?

There was one man behind much of that style and sizzle: Sam Hundley.

For decades he was the newspaper’s unrivaled artistic king. The guy who wore out the carpet at newspaper awards ceremonies as he shyly marched up to the stage over and over again, collecting prizes while the rest of us just sat there.

In addition to the countless Virginia Press Association awards hoovered up by all of The Pilot’s talented designers, Sam won gold awards from the Society For News Design International. He illustrated the October 2011 cover of National Geographic Magazine and the 2019 album cover for the Meat Puppets’ “Dusty Notes.” Continue reading

Newspapers: No Laughing Matter

by Kerry Dougherty

Almost any time I do any public speaking – not often since the pandemic began – a member of the audience will ask something like this:

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to work in newspapers?

After I stop laughing, I ask if the young person has a trust fund. If the answer is no – and it’s always no – I say there is no money and no future in newspapers. The young person should learn to code or do something useful, like dog grooming.

That usually gets a laugh. But I’m not joking.

Newspapers large and small are circling the drain. It’s a national tragedy. Here in Tidewater we just found out that both The Virginian-Pilot, where I spent 33 years, and The Daily Press, are now owned by a hedge fund. Continue reading

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

A Rare Recognition

Bill Howell. Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

It’s not often that we see our friends at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (TJI) get recognition in established media. The younger generation of reporters gravitates toward studies and reports published by left-leaning advocacy groups, seemingly living in a universe in which informed conservative opinions do not exist. So, I’m delighted to see that the Richmond Times-Dispatch has highlighted the announcement that former House Speaker William J. Howell has joined TJI as chairman of the board of directors.

“He’s a superb fit,” said Chris Braunlich, president of the 24-year-old institute. “He brings to our institute the knowledge of the workings of the General Assembly.”

“There is a need for a vigorous, free-market, center-right organization that can help develop good policy, promote good policy and ensure that it works,” he added in a Thursday interview. Continue reading