by Wamara Mwine
Wamara Mwine: Greetings Paul and welcome to our Fireside Chat. We have had many conversations about our current state of affairs and I hope to hear your views on many of them. I also want to hear your analysis on what the Biden White House is facing.
Let's start with the upcoming trial for the death of George Floyd. Like other deaths of unarmed African-Americans, Floyd's case was surrounded by Black Lives Matter protests, which notably included an umprecedented number of white protestors. Do you think it is possible for George Floyd to receive justice in the courtroom, even thought he is no longer alive?
Paul Moore: Trying to predict the outcome of the George Floyd trial is difficult. Historically, cops who have been charged in cases where the victim has died are almost never convicted. It does seem, however, that the judge in Minneapolis has a handle on the case and by adding a third-degree murder charge it gives the prosecution more options to get a conviction. Black Lives Matter protests and those who support it provided the kind of exposure that was unprecedented. But GOP conservatives, police unions and their supporters have created a false equivalency narrative by comparing the BLM to the Jan. 6th insurrection. It’s designed to provide cover for those who refuse to acknowledge the history and current state of policing in America regarding minorities.
Wamara Mwine: Of my 23 years of knowing you, I have always admired your “fair and balanced” approach to journalism, sorry for using the Fox News motto, which apparently they have now dropped. What has happened to journalism over the expansion of the 24 hour news cycle? How can people like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, exist in our media? Does America have a real chance to get real news anymore?
Paul Moore: I spent 35 years as a newspaper editor, primarily at two great metropolitan dailies -- The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Baltimore Sun. These newspapers covered local and regional issues but also had national and international reach with foreign, national and Washington bureaus. These newspapers along with others in cities like Chicago, Boston, Miami, Dallas, Portland, Detroit, Louisville, St. Louis, Denver, Cleveland and others do not exist do not exist in this form, anymore. They all still are capable of doing high quality local and regional reporting but with significantly smaller newsroom staffs. The Sun won a Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for reporting about then Mayor Catherine Pugh's children’s book-publishing scheme that led to her conviction and imprisonment for fraud.
I left the newspaper business nine years ago and the changes since then have been extraordinary. The increased power of social media, blogs, cable news, chat rooms and partisan outlets has grown exponentially. The New York Times and The Washington Post have the resources and ambition to cover the nation and the world in depth. To a lesser degree, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times still offer serious in-depth coverage of the nation and the world.
Then there’s everyone else. And since 2008, hundreds of small and regional newspapers have gone out of business as hedge funds continue to buy newspapers and then cut staff to squeeze what profits they can. The world of newspapers is more competitive and demanding than ever. The online outlets for newspapers require constant updating, Reporters and editors now have multi-task responsibilities for photo, video, editing and headline writing. I admire the work of journalists now more than ever.
As for Fox (News): The network continues to have significant influence on public opinion, especially among conservative Republicans. Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham are Fox network stars. They are part of the national media landscape, but they are not journalists. Some Fox News anchors and reporters are journalists. Nonetheless, Fox reporting primarily focuses on news stories that inspire grievance and resentment. The editors are highly skilled at cherry picking news that fulfills the “political correctness” narrative.
Fox stories often make attempts to challenge the status quo in race relations, education, cultural and gender issues, sports and politics seem suspect and even silly. In truth there are examples of absurd policies and directives that deserve to be uncovered. But at Fox grievance and resentment is the essence of its editorial DNA. It offers convenient rationalizations for opposing changes of attitude and policy that negatively affect millions of Americans every day. In other words it’s called the “cancel culture.” Some will argue that ABC (News), NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times are simply doing the same thing from another point of view. I do not agree. I especially believe the two newspapers hold up the best.
Wamara Mwine: The Trump Administration brought a real platform for the White Supremacy movement and it's expansion. From the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville to the Jan. 6th insurrection, we have a lot and there were other significant skirmishes in between. What is really going on here and do you think there is some political meaning behind it?
Paul Moore: Trump himself and his administration allowed White supremacy or White privilege to become remarkably transparent. From Charlottesville to Jan. 6th to Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson's comments about BLM and the insurrectionists, the rhetoric of racism is no longer shrouded in innuendo... And the onslaught of restructive voting rights laws percolating in state legislatures is the most tangible example of political meaning.
In Georgia, a White governor (Republican Brian Kemp) surrounded by seven White legislators in front of a painting of a plantation is transmitted without concern for what it represents. And when a Black Georgia legislator (Democratic Rep. Park Cannon) is arrested and handcuffed for knocking on the governor’s door during the signing, the scenario of White power is complete. These bills that restrict voting rights and will give legislatures increased power to reject results they don’t agree with. I believe it’s a clear attempt by the GOP and its White dominated members to retain or regain political power.
Paul Moore: I totally agree with John Kerry. Without corporate and major business support climate change initiatives will continue to be hampered by political and industry opposition. GM’s decision to move primarily to electric cars by 2035, is a great example. More corporations and businesses are recognizing that dealing with climate change is the largest factor in maintaining and increasing profits. And profits are always the bottom line in decision making. International accords have value but have proven very difficult to enforce.
Wamara Mwine: When some of these people take action it can be deadly. American deaths seem to point to deranged folks and one weapon in particular, the AR-15 Assault Rifle. Will America ever choose life over the freedom to by this weapon? We saw in New Zealand, after 51 people were killed in a Mosque, there was a solid ban of the assault weapons involved. Why not here? With the political divide on this issue in America, including the divisive nature of Ted Cruz, do you think the AR-15 could ever be shelved by a vote on Capitol Hill?
Paul Moore: Not in the near future. I’m more pessimistic about the possibility of gun control legislation than any other issue. The city of Boulder had an assault weapon ban overturned 10 days before the massacre at the shopping center. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) who proudly owns an AR-15 says he needs it for defense in case of an invasion by roving gangs. The response to the mass shootings in the past two weeks seems tepid to me. It’s as if we’ve become more and more numb to the carnage.
Wamara Mwine: With Covid-19, we have seen death and destruction on so many levels. Can you say the publicly broadcast numbers are accurate? How are Americans expected to pick out which vaccine is safe? I had written about using herbals that block the proteins the virus needs to mutate and spread, based on Japanese and India medical studies.
Paul Moore: "I don't feel qualified to offer a serious opinion about alternative treatments for Covid because I simply don't know much about them. I do think, however, that herbal remedies and other sources of treatment should be explored and that people should have access to information about them." Speaking of numbness, I sense that the minute-by-minute updating of the number of Covid-19 deaths is having a diminished effect on U.S. attitudes. Whether the numbers are completely accurate may be debatable, but I believe the best sources are quite close. Vaccination has become so politicized health care officials at all levels have to use significant resources just to convince millions that it’s in the best interests of all Americans to get the shots.
Wamara Mwine: The Biden White House faces all of these issues. Do you have a real guess at what they might accomplish in his first term? If you were in the West Wing, what advice would you have for Biden?
Paul Moore: Well, they’ve accomplished one very big thing already with the Covid rescue bill. Dismissed as a progressive wish list by the GOP, it’s the first major bill to address the needs of middle-class, lower middle-class and poor Americans in more than 50 years... The execution of the bill is complicated and there are likely to be some problems, but I think it’s an essential and important step forward for this country.
The next major Biden administration initiative will be centered on infrastructure, climate change and the social safety net. That Biden will propose tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to help pay for it will meet stiff resistance, but I believe it’s the necessary approach. Biden seems determined to make the federal government an active and responsible part of the American experience again.
For more than 40 years the GOP’s philosophy of smaller government, low taxes, fewer regulations and a smaller tighter safety net has dominated the political discourse. And even though there have been some benefits from this governing approach, the scope of the problems the Biden administration faces require a new approach.
I also believe that the vast majority of Americans age 40 and under support a proactive government effort to confront 21st century problems. I also think the voting rights issue has been elevated to the top of the Biden agenda. It’s likely that it will also become a large priority in the next year. If I was in the West Wing (very hard to imagine) I’d strongly advise what seems to be the current plan: be bold and decisive. At present there is little or no evidence of any GOP support on these key issues. The 2022 elections loom large in the minds of the political class, but Biden’s emphasis on trying to solve problems seems smart to me. We’ll see how it works out.
Wamara Mwine: Thank you Paul for sharing your views on this list of issues we are facing in America. I will be sure to email a copy of our chat to the Biden White House.
Editor's Note: It is worth mentioning the graphic design and layout of my stories by Lani Balaoro, who resides in the Philippines. Her virtual efforts have made this interview come to life. I want to thank Chadi Soliman for his graciously accommodating our pictures at the Staybridge Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor. Lastly, I want to acknowledge Kimpton Monaco Baltimore for facilitating our interview with their fireplace.
Wamara Mwine is an investigative journalist and Contributor to The Hill Newspaper. He covered the Obama White House and has appeared on Sirius XM Radio to discuss his observations. Wamara advises attorneys, politicians and church leaders in crisis-media. E-mail Wamara Mwine at firstname.lastname@example.org.