Deadspin and the Decline of “MSESPN”

I’ve joked that my superpower is liking sports media figures that many others despise, among them Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports One’s Speak for Yourself with Whitlock and Colin Cowherd — who doesn’t like a bit of sports media drama?

Whitlock seemed to serve up plenty of it in his May 7 article for the Wall Street Journal titled “How a Gawker-Affiliated Website Made ESPN Politically Correct” wherein he argues that constant attacks (fair or otherwise) from Deadspin got the once adventurous ESPN to begin kowtowing to the far-left ideology that Deadspin would presumably prefer to see the rest of sports media adopt.

This comes at a time wherein ESPN struggles with outsized TV contracts, “cord-cutting”, and the likely alienation of half the country as it recently laid off more than 100 employees announced in late April.

As Outkick The Coverage editor Clay Travis puts it:

The people being fired at ESPN today aren’t being fired because they are bad at their jobs, they’re being fired because ESPN’s business is collapsing. That collapse has been aided by ESPN’s absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network, but that’s more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse. ESPN’s business is collapsing and the network is desperately trying to find a way to stay above water. You know how a drowning person flails in the water before slipping under? ESPN’s left wing shift is that flailing. They think going left wing will save them. The reality is the opposite, ESPN going left wing was like giving a drowning person a big rock to hold and thinking it would keep them from drowning. Instead, it just made them sink even faster.

That’s why ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year and viewers are abandoning the network in droves.

Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.

ESPN and others on the progressive left vehemently deny the injection of politics has anything to do with ESPN’s struggles.

It’s incorrect to say that it’s the only reason for its struggles, but it’s also incredibly myopic to pretend it has nothing to do with them.

ESPN’s lurch to the left isn’t the cause of its decline, but a cause.

For example, I don’t think anyone has to be a swivel-eyed rightist to understand why half the electorate might find something wrong with Caitlyn Jenner being awarded ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2015 above Mount St. Joseph basketball player Lauren Hill, who battled brain cancer while continuing to play on the university team.

She died Apr. 10 of that year.

Many also objected to Jenner being given the award above Noah Galloway, an Iraq War veteran who, after sustaining injuries in combat which necessitated the amputation of his left arm above the elbow, and left leg above the knee, went on to compete in extreme sports and was a finalist in the spring 2015 season of Dancing with the Stars.

Jenner by contrast was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for doing something all the right-on, Very Important People™ in the media, academia, and politics would have fallen all over themselves to fawn over anyway, calling her “stunning and braveadnauseaum.

In the current political climate in which the notion that there are only two genders and sex is biologically determined regardless of gender identity or expression are now incandescently controversial, that’s not courage — not in the least bit.

It’s empty, sugar-high virtue-signalling for the sake of being showered with approbation on social media as a Very Good Person™ by other Very Important People™ .

ESPN is of course free to give the Arthur Ashe award to whomever it likes, but whether anyone wants to admit it or not, everyone knows awarding it to Caitlyn Jenner was about showing the requisite propitiation to far-left progressive orthodoxies in a day when presumably serious people suggest with all apparent seriousness, that children aged in the single digits should now be fed puberty blockers, other hormones, or be subjected to sex change surgeries because some people believe on a hair trigger children that age can determine their own gender before they’re mature enough to decide who to vote for or what they want to do for a living when they grow up.

It should not be in the least bit surprising when people who, for one reason or another, object to this agenda (among others), look at ESPN’s promotion of it and say “I’m out” before cancelling their cable subscriptions.

Some of Deadspin’s attacks against ESPN, as Whitlock notes, included suggesting Stuart Scott was cheating on his then-wife and spreading unconfirmed rumors of widespread sexual misconduct among ESPN employees.

They evidently worked, as Whitlock had the temerity to point out a cause he has identified as a reason for the network’s shift to the far-left, as part of the reasons behind its decline:

On the plus side, Deadspin’s exposure helped end ESPN’s sexually charged frat-house atmosphere. But it also extinguished the network’s risk-taking culture and infused it with strict obedience to progressive political correctness.

During ESPN’s presentation to advertisers last year, Deadspin’s Kevin Draper wrote a post that all but declared the blog’s victory over the media giant. In the piece, “ESPN’s Vision of Its Future Is Good for Sports Fans, for Now” the writer celebrated the network’s firing of Curt Schilling and the “targeting” of nonwhite and female viewers.

“The old-school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes,” veteran ESPN anchor Linda Cohn said during an April radio interview when asked if ESPN’s liberal bent hurt the network. “If anyone wants to ignore that fact, then they’re blind.”

Rather than sue Mr. Denton’s bullying internet pirates into submission the way tech billionaire Peter Thiel did, ESPN chose to acquiesce and adopt progressive ideology and diversity as groundbreaking business innovations. ESPN is the exact network Deadspin desired. It’s diverse on its surface, progressive in its point of view, and more concerned with spinning media narratives than with the quality of its product.

Particularly after the recent termination of longtime Fox News primetime staple Bill O’Reilly on allegations of sexual harassment, it’s certainly wise of networks (or any other place of business, for that matter) to discourage any atmosphere that could in even the most vague terms be considered “frat-house”.

In fact, whether you believe O’Reilly is guilty or not, he’s a walking billboard for a broader interpretation on how not to behave of the Mike Pence rule, even if you don’t like the Vice President nor are even remotely as religious as he — you don’t have to be a regular churchgoer to believe it to be a matter of simple prudence.

It’s another thing however to steer the company in a direction in which it alienates half the country with a political slant in sports — a part of American culture which otherwise crosses a multitude of socio-political lines — especially when you have other problems threatening your network, such as subordinating quality-of-work by talent to other considerations when making hiring and firing decisions:

The channel has become too handcuffed by politics to protect its most experienced and loyal employees. It’s a massive symbol of everything that fueled Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.

ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder, one of the most prominent faces among the layoffs last month, said in a podcast that he heard quality of work would not be a consideration when employees were let go. He lamented that “it seemed to me that quality work should be the only consideration.” Not in this America, the one ruled by social-media perception and dismissive of the real world.

Political correctness is an especially powerful force such that judging by some of the reactions to Whitlock’s commentary there’s very little tolerance for freedom of thought among the left.

I understand what this is like particularly from my experiences in the political left which I quit in part over the strict ideological conformity ruthlessly policed by “call out culture“, social media shaming, or the targeting of livelihoods among other tactics of silence and intimidation at the sign of the slightest deviation from the party line.

This is exactly what Deadspin targeted ESPN with, and Whitlock knows this:

ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports. and going after ESPN is a way to move the rest of the media. And so…if you understand how to move the media, you don’t go after low hanging fruit, you go after the highest hanging fruit.

[If] you go look at what Deadspin and Gawker have been doing just in the sports lane…there’s a reason Peter King was in the crosshairs…Peter King I think personally is a liberal, but he covers football and football is a conservative sport.

if you look at Deadspin’s attack on me I’m probably the highest profile African-American columnist who writes from an independent point of view…I’ve been published in the Huffington Post and I’ve written about America’s Drug War, and mass incarceration, I’m not some flaming conservative, but in this environment where I tend to go either way, I could be a conservative or a liberal, I’m seen as a conservative and there’s been attack on me, and there’s been a much more consistent attack on ESPN, and I think the point of it was to move the entire media to the left.

If you make ESPN the example and everybody sees ESPN in the sports media lane as the destination  and if Deadspin is going after people on a consistent basis that either represent conservative institutions or occasionally spout conservative viewpoints or viewpoints consistent with sports culture, of course you go after ESPN and move the rest of the media.

Whitlock lays out a compelling case that Deadspin uses call-out culture, shaming and intimidation to enforce ideological conformity within the sports media.

The emotional manipulation they rely on to this end however may be a well that will soon run dry.

Easily the most fascinating reactions to President Trump’s victory I’ve seen or heard were from people who weren’t conservative, didn’t want him to win, or didn’t particularly like him, but who nonetheless savoured his victory because of the apoplexy from those who adamantly opposed his candidacy — the progressive-left has become that insufferable to many who might even agree with them on a number of issues.

Organizations like Deadspin may see themselves as thought leaders (as well as thought police), but as they continue their long march through the institutions, they’re shedding supporters as a result of their own conduct.

Armed with the ethics of Gawker and business sense of ESPN in 2017 Deadspin goading ESPN into making a hard left turn might lead them both to smash straight into a brick wall.

Remembering 9/11, Fifteen Years Later – @RefinedRight

I was asked to contribute to a feature at Refined Right speaking about my experiences and thoughts on 9/11, for which I’m thankful.

I still relish the Texans season open victory over the Chicago Bears, watching the Giants/Cowboys game underway as I write this particular blog post.

I’m trying to make it a point not to talk about politics during football games (I’m trying to be more positive in general, which may be too tall an order these days) and enjoy the liberties which, as an American, permit me to enjoy sports mostly at my leisure.

Despite the confluence of the 2016 NFL season opening weekend, and the 15th anniversary (for want of a better word) of the day the lives of nearly 3,000 people were immolated by religious fanatics, I nonetheless feel compelled to say something, being so “‘Murican” by now that the English Premier League football team I’ve thrown my lot in with is named after a building made for storing firearms.

I feel like I’m not particularly good at memorializing tragedies.

On my mind instead are values, and not the kind spouted by duplicitous preacher-men who get caught fucking around on their wives after thundering about the dangers of same-sex marriage and fornication.

Christopher Hitchens, one of my most foundational influences reviled by many of my left-wing now-former political comrades, wrote an obituary of sorts and reflection on the legacy of Osama Bin Laden called “The Enemy“:

In a brilliant essay on the death of Osama bin Laden, Christopher Hitchens insists that the necessity to resist the threat of theocratic fanaticism is by no means cancelled. Hitchens argues that bin Laden and his adherents represented the most serious and determined and bloodthirsty attempt to revive totalitarian and racist ideology since 1945. Further, that while the unending struggle for reason is entitled to take some especial comfort in his demise, the values of secularism, libertarianism, internationalism, and solidarity will always need to be defended and reaffirmed.

It’s not a long read, and available for perhaps less than a cup of coffee, but very well worth the time of anyone interested in defending the values which make an imperfect society worth living in.

I hope you find it as compelling as I but for now, thanks for the opportunity, and thanks to all who contributed to Refined Right’s inagural memoralization of 9/11, which I hope you enjoy, so to speak, as much as I.

I also hope you enjoy this day however you like, as I certainly will after this brief interlude, but for now, my contribution republished here from Refined Right:

I’d just returned from class when I got word of the attacks. I remember a vague numbness, the kind that might understandably accompany disbelief at the sight of a tragedy that might have been a plot point in a summer action movie: “I can’t believe this is happening.” The reality is of course much more horrific, and not just on the scale of carnage revealed after the dust clouds settled that brilliant September day.

The attacks still challenge our ability to reconcile national security with the rights and liberties that make being an American worthwhile in the first place. It also challenges us to defend the small-l classical liberal values which define and undergird (for now) Western society, as well as challenges us to reject mindless forms of multiculturalism which openly make excuses for flying planes into buildings, killing nearly 3,000 people. I didn’t appreciate it then, but as I see the West’s confidence in its own values flag and flail, values I appreciated when I was then on the left and today in the center, I understand that it is more important than ever to stand firm and defend what is great about America.

Colin Kaepernick Reminds Us It’s Always a Good Time To Talk About “Kafkatrapping”

Republished from Refined Right

Colin Kaepernick decided to inject himself into an ever-controversial conversation by sitting for the national anthem during the Aug. 26 preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick, according to NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I’ve proudly served my country, the United States of America, in a relatively quiet enlistment in the U.S. Army. I remain, however, deliberately unmoved or otherwise “not-offended” by Kaepernick’s disrespect, most importantly because the First Amendment deserves vigorous defense, and also because the idea of “mandatory patriotism” unnerves even me.

It’s important to be aware of a logical fallacy/political tactic called “kafkatrapping” which I first heard of from Wendy McElroy:

The term “kafkatrapping” describes a logical fallacy that is popular within gender feminism, racial politics and other ideologies of victimhood. It occurs when you are accused of a thought crime such as sexism, racism or homophobia. You respond with an honest denial, which is then used as further confirmation of your guilt. You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of kafkatrapping precludes that possibility.

This will almost certainly sound at least somewhat familiar to conservatives, libertarians, and even more moderate liberals like myself who have ever run afoul of the latest authoritarian left-wing shibboleths.

It is reminiscent of an anecdote (possibly apocryphal) which involves President Lyndon B. Johnson. As the story goes, Johnson spread rumors that a campaign opponent of his was a “pig-f***er.” When reportedly confronted about this by someone within his campaign, the story usually goes that he more or less told a campaign aide that he didn’t care if it was true or not, because he just wanted “to see the son of a b***h deny it.”

Kaepernick’s act of protest likely makes more sense to one who believes the United States is in 2016 morally indistinguishable from slavery, the American South during the Jim Crow era, or apartheid South Africa.

If you don’t agree with why Kaepernick sat, or any of the accompanying political baggage, it’s prudent to understand that whatever your politics are, the kind of people who reflexively side with Kaepernick are going to call you a racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe no matter what you say, what you really mean, or whether it’s good or evil which rests in your heart.

They’ll do it with the flimsiest of evidence, if any at all. But as with the Johnson anecdote, even honest denials are treated as further evidence of one’s bigotry.

Such traps aren’t always avoidable, but it’s still helpful to understand how some of them work in order to cope with the fallout.

Ben Shapiro gave a lecture at the University of Missouri (which now hemorrhages money and prospective students due to racially-charged protests in 2015) titled “Truth is a Microaggression.”

It’s well worth a listen in it’s entirety, but when discussing “white privilege”, a term largely deployed to paint even the dirt-poorest coal miners in West Virginia as the apotheosis of evil in the world, Shapiro mentions this as a marquee political tactic used by the identitarian left to intimidate targets into silence or submission.

His advice is to let such smears roll off the back in hopes to deny people who are entirely too loose with accusations of bigotry a staple in how they approach political discourse.

There are still substantive issues surrounding race in the U.S. which are obscured by people who, with all apparent sincerity and conviction, lodge the most ludicrous complaints, such as the claim that eating certain types of food is racist.

Productive conversations about racial issues are impossible so long as a boilerplate political tactic such as mindlessly smearing people as bigots over genuine political disagreements remains an acceptable method of discourse by the noisiest voices in politics.

Until that changes remember that it is sometimes beneficial to fly under the radar. Never, though, should one back down from their own moral convictions in the face of baseless claims.