Talk of Alligator-Filled Moats Tops This Week’s Internet News RoundupOctober 24, 2019
Last week it felt like the news would never stop, and we say that having survived the news event onslaught that has been 2019 up until this point. If it wasn’t Bernie Sanders being hospitalized, it was Rudy Giuliani working with imprisoned Donald Trump campaign official Paul Manafort. (Or maybe it was Rudy Giuliani getting temporarily banned from Twitter for sharing a Ukrainian official’s phone number; there’s just so much Rudy going around.) Perhaps it was the IRS whistle-blower who’s reported concerns that political appointees are standing in the way of the release of President Trump’s taxes, or the president publicly asking China to investigate Joe Biden’s family. You know, it could also be the US attorney general wanting access to WhatsApp messages, or the attempt to create a sex scandal around Elizabeth Warren of all people. Really, this week has been so busy that we’ve not even had time to get outraged at the new season of Bake-Off. Whatever has the world come to?
Let’s find out. Hey, internet. What have you been talking about over the past few days?
Just Because People Liked the One Where Cap and Iron Man Fought Isn’t Enough Reason to Try Another One
What Happened: America is talking about civil war again. Yes, really.
What Really Happened: It all started with these tweets from President Trump.
Trump, it turns out, wasn’t actually predicting the outbreak of a new civil war; he was actually quoting Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress. Well, misquoting, if we’re going to be entirely accurate.
But what about the president’s tweets, and the implication of the leader of the United States circulating the idea of civil war? Many were thinking about the implications of what it meant that Trump was sharing that on Twitter.
That said, here’s something about the whole situation that is worth considering, when we’re thinking about the President of the United States talking about civil war.
So, how did Trump feel about it the next day?
The Takeaway: Let’s go with this.
A Border Wall With Moats Full of Alligators or Snakes
What Happened: The president reportedly asked for snake-filled moats and drones to protect the border wall he wants to build.
What Really Happened: You might be thinking, how badly does President Trump want that wall to be built along America’s southern border? The answer may surprise you.
—while others had, shall we say, human concerns.
A day after the report, President Trump attempted to quell the response with a (since deleted, for reasons you’ll soon see) tweet arguing that the reports were “fake news.” There was just one problem with that tweet.
And the tweet definitely did grab people’s attention on Twitter.
The Takeaway: There was, of course, something else to notice about the president’s “moot” tweet.
The State of Mike Pompeo
What Happened: Judging by some of the activity surrounding the secretary of state this week, it’s beginning to look like President Trump—and Rudy Giuliani—may not be the only ones affected by this whole Ukraine mess.
What Really Happened: Last week, it became clear that US secretary of state Mike Pompeo was also in hot water as a result of the whistle-blower complaint against President Trump, attorney general William Barr, and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. His troubles started with reports that he was actually on the call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump appeared to pressure Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful and former vice president Joe Biden’s family, despite just last week telling reporters that he didn’t know anything about it. Well … no. It actually started the week before, when Giuliani told Fox News that the State Department had actually asked him to get involved with Ukraine, leading to the State Department getting subpoenaed to produce any and all documents related to the matter, but Pompeo’s direct involvement started last week when it emerged that he may have been on the call himself, which prompted this from the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs, and House Oversight committees on Tuesday.
That had an immediate impact, producing an interesting response from someone who, notably, wasn’t Mike Pompeo.
Ahead of that meeting, there was much discussion about what it could be about, but one reporter was onto something earlier than most.
A day later, that line of thinking was seemingly confirmed.
Well … slightly confirmed, at least. Turns out, the IG also provided documents filled with Ukraine–related information that had been given to Pompeo by the White House, including a number of unproven (or, in some cases, disproven) claims relating to former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But where could that information have come from?
While all this was going on—including House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff holding a press conference to warn Pompeo against intimidating witnesses and pointing out that doing so would count as obstruction of justice—Pompeo was in Italy, where things weren’t going that well for a number of reasons.
So, what’s next? It’s unclear, but probably nothing good for the current secretary of state.
And what did President Trump have to say?
But let’s remember…
The Takeaway: Maybe this?
Facebook and the Future of Democracy
What Happened: Is it possible that Facebook could be bad for democracy? Surely not. And yet, last week there were indications that might be true.
What Really Happened: Here’s something we haven’t thought about in a while: Is Facebook going to end up being one of the major players—if not the major player, outside of the actual nominees—in the 2020 election? It feels like hyperbole, but a couple of stories last week underscored just how important Mark Zuckerberg’s monolith is going to be over the next couple of years, starting with just how much messaging is currently being purchased by the Trump campaign.
If that seems like a lot of money — and it is — then rest assured, it’s only a fraction of what the Trump campaign is actually doing on Facebook.
In fact, Trump is outspending his rivals four-to-one on the social network, according to research. This is of particular importance when you remember that Facebook has officially said that it will not fact-check politicians, nor remove misleading content posted by politicians. In other words…
As all of this was becoming public knowledge, some were wondering if Facebook could become a so-called “secret weapon” for the Trump campaign next year. (Others, meanwhile, aren’t convinced that would be anything new.)
Speaking of Zuck, two hours of audio of the Facebook CEO talking to his employees leaked last week, including what he thought of Senator Elizabeth Warren.
The clash between Zuckerberg and Warren is one that may have Facebook employees siding with their boss—apparently, only 17 Facebook employees have donated to Warren’s campaign—but, for those already of a mind to support Warren, it’s certainly an argument that’s playing in her favor and winning new fans.
However, let’s not ignore the fact that a fight between a potential Democratic nominee for president and the man who controls news flow for a significant portion of the US might turn out to be a slight problem, should Warren actually win the nomination.
The Takeaway: Clearly, it’s time to reconsider this whole 2020 election thing altogether.
Never Mind the White House Leakers, It’s Time for the White House Squeaker
What Happened: The White House press room had a surprise visitor.
What Really Happened: Last week, a very unlikely rodent caught the attention of the White House Press Corps.
And the fascination with the mouse wasn’t restricted to Twitter, either; there were a surprising number of mouse–related news stories that appeared in the media as a result of this event, as if there was nothing more important happening anywhere else in the White House. Was this a case of the mouse being a welcome distraction, or White House reporters being caught up in something that only mattered to them?
The Takeaway: Really, though, let’s ask the important questions about the whole affair.