Did Goliath Just Throw a Stone at David? NBC Trolled Federalist?
A major network became a #MeToo enabler, then decided to do the right thing: take down a conservative publication.
The pilot season for new TV shows begins in January. I have a blockbuster in mind, a drama with a Kafkaesque ending: NBC exploits women and African Americans and then sends a 25-year-old Gen Z journalist to troll a conservative publication called the Federalist, co-starring Google.
Here’s the script.
Part I: The Weinstein Wiggle
The Guardian reports: “Ronan Farrow alleged that disgraced mogul Weinstein worked every connection he had at the network to achieve his desired effect: NBC ordered a stop to Farrow’s reporting.”
Ronan Farrow: “There is a systemic cultural problem at NBC. I think we’re seeing the consequences of what happens when you sweep these kinds of problems under the rug.”
NBC: “Ronan, go back to writing about Woody Allen.”
Farrow departs the set.
NBC News chairman, Andy Lack: “After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, (Ronan Farrow) simply didn’t have a story that met (the) standard any major news organization.”
Two months later, Farrow publishes the Pulitzer prize-winning story in the New Yorker that ignites the #MeToo movement. What’s more, Farrow states NBC attempted to suppress his reporting after Weinstein threatened to reveal sexual misconduct allegations against the network’s former star host, Lauer.
NBC’s Noah Oppenheim told staffers in an October memo, “We have no secrets and nothing to hide. There is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct…”
NBC: “Nothing. Nada.”
Part II: The Lauer Lie
Then a dozen current and former NBC staffers told the Washington Post they had been sexually harassed while working at NBC. (The network) chose not to report it. Three women said they had been harassed by Lauer specifically.
Lauer confirms: “I fully acknowledge that I acted inappropriately as a husband, father, and principal at NBC.”
NBC: “Say it ain’t so, Matt.”
Part III: Race Matters
After praying to the gods of Hollywood that this ‘fracas’ was behind them, a second flare-up occurs, this time around race. An NBC African American presenter, Gabrielle Union, speaks out about racial insensitivity on one of the network’s hit shows.
NBC: “Union, you’re fired.” fired Union.
“A prominent women’s advocacy group denounced NBC’s handling of Gabrielle Union, telling the Guardian it fits a “pattern of the network protecting the careers of powerful men at the expense of women who speak out.”
Part IV: NBC My Answer
NBC: We’ve talented women, people of color, and progressive liberals. What should we do? Deplatform the Federalist.
Offstage: the Federalist is a publication with 250,000 Twitter followers. NBC has 7 million followers. So why bother? Why does Google join the fun? Google, the guys who inspired their brilliant women to walk out in protest because they paid off a serial sex offender $90 million? So the Federalist became a casus belli.
Part V: The News C’est Moi
NBC: “bury the conspiracy as a news story.”
Offstage: According to David Harsanyi of National Review, “NBC News (journalist Adele-Momoko Fraser) reported today that the Federalist had been banned from generating revenue through widely used Google Ads. A Google spokesperson initially told NBC News that it “took action after determining the websites violated its policies on content related to race.”
Momoko Fraser plants the story, directs Google to shut down the site’s revenue capability, and writes the ‘scoop’ on @NBCnews.
“Neither NBC News nor Google offered a single example backing up their contention that the Federalist has peddled racist sentiments about Black Lives Matter.”
The Federalist published an article claiming the media had been lying about looting and violence during the protests, which were both included in the report sent to Google. “Here, it would appear, is the piece in question, written by John Daniel Davidson. Not one word of it is racist.”
“Google tells Ad Week the site would be demonetized, but that the Federalist could rectify the situation.”
Offstage: Did they say demonize or demonetize? Oh, same thing.
Part VI: Designing Journalist
According to the Daily Mail of Britain, NBC’s Adele-Momoko Fraser (less than 2,000 followers) is a 25-year-old journalist whose tenure is barely two years. She prompted Google’s action.
The substance of her plot appears to be the sin of free speech. The Federalist has no control over its comments section (other than to eliminate), but she found it offensive. To a triggered generation, offenses are to be punished, not debated.
Her wrathful response was to convert the Federalist’s sin into shame currency. She leaned on her NBC credentials to get Google to defund the Federalist, then took credit for the “scoop” by posting a byline that revealed the perpetration but not her part in it, and pinned the blame on the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
It nearly worked.
Google should have known because it hardly takes a forensic specialist to discern, according to the Daily Mail, the site is “manned by one person, named Imran Ahmed (roughly 2,000 followers), who seems to believe that Microsoft and Ford are also part of the as a white-supremacist conspiracy.”
Imran Ahmed: “Google is next. Watch out Page.”
Part VII: Google Search
Google failed to learn its own search algorithm, the quality of a website is based on the number of citations.
Google’s founders created search rankings (and a trillion-dollar business) on the simple metric that a high-quality site was mentioned more often than one of lower quality. If you write an article that a number of famous people read and repost, a higher ranking is the result. You can trust them. This is also known as the wisdom of crowds. It implies that a large universe makes better decisions than a few who are corrupt or have an ax to grind.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate turns out to be a variant of a Russian troll factory, operating on the fringes of the left-wing with fewer than 9,000 Twitter followers, a cipher in the Google lexicon. But among them was Momoko Fraser. This fact did not prevent NBC from taking her story at face value nor Google from using her corrupt data to destroy a publication.
When Google bowed to Momoko Fraser, and NBC went along for the ride, both organizations were building progressive make goods with junior employees after behaving so ignominiously. NBC and Google hid uncourageously behind a rookie journalist. Instead of making it a moment of truth they made it a moment for trashing.
The result is an unintended consequence — like the United States after the Revolution. The Federalist is now better known now than its founders dreamed.