[Media Rundown] Periscoping politicians; baffling Brexit; hiding Hillary; short-handed SCOTUS

Today, recapping unexpected events – Congress and C-SPAN on the cutting edge, and the U.K. leaving the E.U. Plus, we’ll check in on the Supreme Court and the two most unpopular presidential candidates ever.

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All politics today… let’s go.

The Streaming Sit-In

The hippest place this week to see social video streaming? The floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and C-SPAN, of course. House Democrats staged a sit-in demanding a vote be taken on gun control legislation in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando.

It was similar to Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s filibuster the week before. Both were publicity stunts – Democrats know they don’t have the votes to do anything involving guns. But why was the House sit-in – even further removed from the mass shooting – so much more effective at drawing public attention to the cause?

Novelty. Of the protest itself, to a small degree. Filibustering isn’t allowed in the House, so this was a, let’s call it “creative,” way around those rules. It also helped to have George Representative John R. Lewis – a man who knows about honest-to-goodness sit-ins – front and center.

But I still think the sit-in would have been mostly ignored and quickly forgotten if not for the greater novelty of how it was broadcasted to the country.

All images from inside Congressional chambers come from pool cameras controlled by – and this was news to me – majority party leadership. Standing practice is that pool cameras are only turned on when the legislative body is in session. So, when House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a recess amidst the protest, his office also turned off the only permitted video feed of the sit-in. So, when people learned of what was happening and turned to cable news or C-SPAN, the cable service most folks only know for showing us what’s happening inside those chambers, no video was available.

Republicans probably thought they were giving Democrats a taste of their own medicine. Back in 2008, Nancy Pelosi’s office did the exact same thing to Republicans boycotting an energy bill. But eight years ago, none of what happened next would have been possible.

South Dakota Representative Scott Peters pulled out his smartphone and used Periscope to live stream video of the sit-in. Others followed suit, some turning to Facebook Live. The protest’s hashtag, #NoBillNoBreak vaulted to the top of trending topic lists. C-SPAN and the cable news channels began airing the grainy, poorly-shot video from Congresspersons-turned-camerapersons.

By keeping the House cameras dark, Republican leadership inadvertently made Periscoping Democrats look like an oppressed resistance. In the grand scheme of things, still an inconsequential victory for Democrats; a huge win for social streaming services, which received their biggest mainstream media moment to date.

Brexit Strategy

Much of the world was caught off guard when British voters chose to leave the European Union. U.S. stock markets rallied into Thursday’s close ahead of the results, anticipating “Remain” to prevail. By the next morning, ABC, CBS, and NBC all broke into programming at the markets’ open, with lead evening anchors in a small box and the freefalling Dow chart taking up the majority of the screen.

Video from ABC:

[UPDATE: U.S. markets are down another 1.5-2.5% today.]

Cable networks scrambled to break from taped overnights and carry live coverage through the early morning hours. They would need to – by the time most of us woke up stateside, all of this had happened:

One media angle getting some attention is the role the infamous British tabloids might have played in rallying support for the Brexit, and particularly for stoking anti-immigration sentiment.

A particularly fascinating aspect of the Brexit, to me, has been the rapid disintegration of misinformation campaigns by Leave proponents. Unfortunately, it seems many U.K. voters waited until after the referendum to educate themselves on the consequences:

In America, the thinkpieces on what the referendum meant for our presidential election were swift. Indeed, if you believe the Brexit to be about immigration and nationalism, and believe U.K. and U.S. voters to be similar, then an argument could be made this bodes well for Donald Trump. That’s also a lot of “if”s over four months from Election Day.

In a stroke of good fortune, Trump happened to be in Scotland promoting one of his golf courses the morning after the referendum. Anticipating a shift from business to campaigning, his press conference was picked up across the board. However, Trump spent most of his time hawking his fabulous Par 3s. It was a bizarre scene, not unlike when he turned a campaign presser into an infomercial for Trump Steaks.

QUICK HIT: Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s Twitter feed has been something to watch lately. He’s trying to track down any charity that actually received a donation from the Trump Foundation. It’s simple, though time-consuming investigative reporting, and it’s not going so well…

Hillary Laying Low

Lest we forget, there’s a presumptive Democratic nominee for president, too. And by just about every indicator, she’s winning at the moment. But whereas Trump has been the candidate of free airtime, Hillary Clinton has been much more selective in her dealings with the press. In fact, she hasn’t held a press conference (on a Scottish golf course or otherwise) since December 4, 2015.

It’s a strategy we’ve seen from recent gaffe-prone running mates – Sarah Palin dodged uncontrolled press interactions in 2008, while Joe Biden kept a low profile in both 2008 and 2012. But it’s not something typical of the candidate at the top of the ticket.

Then again – and this is going to sound like a broken record by November – this is not a typical presidential election. Clinton would be the most unfavorably viewed candidate since polling data for such a thing began… if not for the person she’s running against. Distrust is at the heart of Clinton’s unfavorables, and so far, her responses to tough questions are doing little to change that impression. Rather than risk a free-for-all on Benghazi, emails, or other sore spots, the Clinton team seems to be banking on watching The Donald self-destruct (counterpoint: ask the GOP field how that worked out).

We’ll see how the political strategy plays out, but I’m always a fan of candidates being vetted by the adversarial press, and I would still wager that Clinton will find herself needing to go through that process before she can claim victory.

Quieter Coverage of SCOTUS

The past few Junes at the Supreme Court have been blockbusters, spurred by Obamacare and same-sex marriage rulings. It’s only one person’s media habits, but it seems like this term has received far less coverage. It’s a bit surprising, especially given the political battle over Justice Scalia’s former seat, which remains vacant.

With only eight members, the potential outcomes have shifted to the left. Anthony Kennedy is still the swing vote, but now he either lends to a 5-3 liberal majority, or to a 4-4 tie, in which the lower court’s ruling stands. (Conservatives obviously can’t continue with this composition. It’s one of the big reasons Trump has any establishment support. However, should a clear path to the presidency emerge for Clinton, count on Merrick Garland finally getting his confirmation.)

Opinions of note: President Obama’s attempts to bypass Congress with executive actions on immigration won’t fly. The University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action admissions procedures are constitutional – though that might not mean much precedent-wise for similar cases in the pipeline. And, in the Court’s tendency to model opinion announcements like Ryan Seacrest reality shows, they saved striking down a Texas abortion law for last. The majority concluded the state’s requirements regarding building construction, equipment, and admitting privileges did not provide “medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.”

I always recommend SCOTUSblog for further reading. They do an excellent job of providing analysis for people with different levels of legal knowledge. The best-of-the-best were Lyle Denniston’s recaps, which I linked to in the paragraph above. Denniston announced today that he would be leaving SCOTUSblog. Here’s hoping he continues to write, and next June we’ll still be #waitingforlyle somewhere.

Cover photo credit: C-SPAN.


Have suggestions for the Media Rundown? Email me or tweet @voiceofD.

Want to be the first to read the Media Rundown? Subscribe to email updates by clicking the “Follow” tab at the bottom of your screen (or here if that’s not working for you). You can also add to your RSS reader.

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