[Quoted] A president inaugurated; another deplatformed

Media research and comms professor Dylan McLemore tweeted this on Tuesday night, and I think it was spot-on. “I know he has a few more hours,” McLemore tweeted, “but it feels like Donald Trump’s presidency ended when his Twitter account was taken away.”

As Joe Biden was set to be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, his predecessor – capable of dominating a media cycle like no other – had become largely silent.

I appeared on Al Jazeera English shortly after the insurrection to talk about Donald Trump’s social media ban, and noted that as president, he continued to possess one of the largest platforms of any person on earth. And yet, in the final weeks of his presidency, he really didn’t use it. Without the ability to tweet stream of consciousness from his phone, the president’s press shop basically called it a term.

I appreciate Brian Stelter fitting the observation into a very busy news day.

Read the entire CNN Reliable Sources newsletter here.

See more of my media appearances here.

[Published] Trump, the Capitol and religious endorsement

What happened at our Capitol festered in our churches and was done in the name of our God. As Christians, we can’t stay silent. The time has long passed to rebuke and remove this cancer once and for all.

I was glued to my television on January 6. The images of protesters breaching the United States Capitol building in a violent show of opposition to presidential election results will stay with me forever. Not just because of what it means for democracy, but because of what it means for the church.

It was impossible not to notice the religious symbols amidst the throng. A giant wooden cross. A flag pledging allegiance both to Donald Trump and Jesus Christ. A Christian flag planted in an occupied Senate chamber.

I’ve been writing about the uncomfortably cozy relationship between Donald Trump and the Evangelical church since he was a candidate. In the four years since, support for Trump has become an important piece of a fused religious-political identity.

It’s an uncomfortable topic. I reluctantly brought the thoughts that would eventually form this article to Facebook. People argued. My faith was questioned. I got (loudly) unfriended. I hated it so much.

But the point of all of my writings on this topic has been the importance of speaking up. No longer accommodating Christian nationalists in our midst, but instead asking why they feel so comfortable in our pews and compatible with the Gospel being preached from our pulpits.

So I wrote this piece – you can read the entire thing in Relevant Magazine.

Update: I also spoke to Eric Sentell for the Metamorphosis podcast for a longform conversation about this. You can listen in your browser via Soundcloud, or download it from Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

See more of my media appearances here.

An unprecedented year and what it means for journalism in 2021

Journalists faced new obstacles and rose to new heights in 2020. What will the news look like in 2021?

“The speed of the news cycle was a new kind of dizzying. If you missed a day (or even a few hours) of news, you felt like a stranger in a foreign land. If it’s tough for those of us whose job it is to keep up, imagine the person who reads a couple headlines during their lunch break, or catches a few televised newscasts a week.”

I wrote that for CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter looking back at the year that was… 2017.

If I had only known what 2020 would bring.

It’s easy to forget that the year was off to a ferocious pace before a global pandemic, worldwide protests over racial injustice, and an Election Day-turned-Week-turned-Month. In January alone, wildfires still raged in Australia, a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash, and the House held the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Journalists faced new obstacles and rose to new heights in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic placed pressures on newsrooms that transitioned to remote work. Broadcast anchors set up makeshift studios in spare bedrooms while reporters joined frontline responders to tell their stories.

Continue reading “An unprecedented year and what it means for journalism in 2021”

[Published] Burst the bubble

The toxicity that leads some of us to unplug from social media is a feature, not a bug. 

I’ve been vaguely familiar with the social media app Parler for maybe a year. The free speech haven made a splash after the election, attracting conservatives fed up with perceived bias from Facebook and Twitter. Though Parler imagines itself a free wheeling marketplace of ideas, its recruiting efforts have attracted a decidedly homogenous user base.

Echo chambers are nothing new. But here in Arkansas, we saw an example of the type of rhetoric one can feel comfortable expressing in such a place, when the police chief of a small town posted “parleys” calling for violence against Democrats on the national stage, and in your community.

This piece gave me a chance to revisit some important themes throughout 2020 – that social media coupled with a pandemic is a recipe for heightened partisanship – and to take a look at a new dimension of hyperpolarization: the radicalization resulting from constant enemy-making.

Partisans aren’t just encouraged by affirmations of their in-group; they are galvanized by demonizations of out-groups. Straw men and memes mocking the “other side” prevail across partisan filter bubbles, creating what Italian researchers called an “emotional contagion” of negativity and what a new study out of the University of Virginia deemed a “phenomenon of animosity.”

This was also a chance to share some surface findings from a study of partisan social media bubbles during the election. Look for more of that on the horizon soon.

Read the full story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

See more of my media appearances here.

[Published] Why coronavirus conspiracies are thriving

The longer we stay at home and social distance during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the more misinformation and conspiracy seem to thrive. Sure, the supply-side is spraying nonsense in every direction for profit, power, anarchy, or all the above. But the flood of falsehoods exists in part because demand is through the roof. The same measures keeping us safe from coronavirus are making us susceptible to misinformation about it.

It was the Plandemic video that really got my attention. I wasn’t just seeing it shared by my more conspiratorial friends, but by seemingly everyone on my Facebook news feed. So I started digging into what we know of selective exposure and cognitive outcome involvement, paired with early research on coronavirus messaging, to explain why conditions are ripe for conspiracies to travel beyond their usual circles, and what can be done at the state and individual level to combat it.

Read the full story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

See more of my media appearances here.