TGIF: CNN+ Goes Belly Up. Libs of TikTok Soars.
Plus: Obama on disinformation. Jared Kushner’s suspicious Saudi deal. Testicle tanning. And more.
TGIF. Let’s get right to the news.
→ White House fights to keep the federal mask mandate: After a Trump-appointed judge struck down the federal mask mandate, there were shrieks of celebration. Videos of flight attendants singing down aisles and merrymaking, collecting masks in trash bags, went viral. Normal people smiled and cheered along with them—it’s hard to think of a group that has seen fewer human faces in the past few years than flight attendants. But The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan called these cheers “whoops of selfish delight.”
It remains very important to America’s pundits that people wear masks in the vicinity of planes—not while eating or drinking during the flight—but during other times.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman predicted widespread violence against the masked: “soon we'll be seeing many incidents in which those who choose to protect themselves with KN95s etc face harassment, even violence. Because this was never about freedom.” And former senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett seemed to think masks had been made illegal: “Wearing my mask no matter what non-scientists tell me I can do.”
And lo, the Justice Department on Wednesday night announced it filed an appeal to reinstate the mask mandate on planes and other public transportation. Cover yourselves right back up, flight attendants.
→ Obama comes out to get mad about disinformation: Yesterday at Stanford, President Obama gave a sweeping speech about disinformation, my favorite thing to complain about people complaining about. He called for more government regulation of platforms (they should be “be required to have a higher standard of care when it comes to advertising on their site”) and criticized big tech’s business model (“inflammatory content attracts engagement”).
“These companies need to have some other north star other than just making money and increasing market share,” the former president said.
We have an idea of what that North Star can be: how about the constitution? There’s a First Amendment in there that seems like a pretty great articulation of what the values of a social media company ought to be.
→ CNN+ shuts down: A reported $300 million was spent on CNN+ and it lasted less than a month. (And we thought Quibi’s demise was epic.) It turns out Americans just aren’t interested in paying for content from Don Lemon and Rex Chapman. Brian Stelter, who also had a show on the short-lived service, quoted the new CNN CEO who called it “an incredibly successful launch.” We’re not cable TV experts, but we know that we have more daily visitors than CNN+ did. RIP.
Meanwhile on Apple TV+, “The Problem with Jon Stewart”—a mush of lefty rants from a couple years ago warmed up and served again—is a ratings disaster dropping by the fifth episode to just 40,000 viewers. And on Spotify, The Obamas’ deal with the company has fallen apart and they will seek a new podcast home.
→ Netflix stumbles: Netflix stock dropped 35% after the company divulged that it lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter. It projected losses of 2 million subscribers between April and June. The ever-opinionated Elon Musk’s take on it: “the woke mind virus made Netflix unwatchable.” Maybe. A lot of the content they churn out is really boring and Morally Correct. But also there’s just a lot more competition out there. Netflix used to be the only game in town.
→ Speaking of Musk: On Thursday morning he filed new documents in his quest to buy Twitter. He’s put together a $46.5 billion funding package with some impressive backers. But to make it work, he still needs to get past the poison pill the board put in, which would dilute shares if anyone acquires more than 15% of the company. Musk is, in theory, trying to make an end-run around the board by going straight to Twitter’s shareholders with his offer. They, in turn, could pressure the board to drop the poison pill. But, at this point, this financing deal appears to be more of a forcing mechanism to make Twitter’s board—which has yet to respond to his original offer to purchase the company—take him seriously.
→ Everyone say “Putin Price Hike”: That’s apparently going to be the official line from Washington. Biden could say something about inflation resulting from hard choices made during a terrible time, a recession staved off during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but the president is instead opting to go for a classic Democrat standby: Russia did it. “I’m doing everything I can to bring down prices and address the Putin Price Hike,” Biden said this week. CNN White House correspondent John Harwood came out with a strong defense: “Biden confronts a host of problems he can’t do much to solve.” Harwood lists: Inflation, Covid, and immigration.
→ An Easter bunny save and a shadow handshake: When President Biden started talking to an Easter party bystander about Afghanistan, someone on his staff wearing a bunny costume physically intervened. The bunny waved its arms, directing the confused-looking president away. The video went viral. It’s unnerving to watch the president of the United States look a little confused at times (did he handshake thin air after a speech?).
→Why we need a fully present commander in chief: Some 100,000 people are trapped in the destroyed Ukrainian city of Mariupol as Russia closes in on the city. Russian forces have shown themselves ready and willing to brutalize and kill civilians, which Putin then celebrates.
→ Jared Kushner’s kushy Saudi deal: Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, received a $2 billion investment from the Saudis just months after Trump left office. Senator Elizabeth Warren last week called for a Department of Justice investigation into it, since it sure looks like a quid-pro-quo. As with all potentially back-dealing political offspring: the answer is yes to an investigation, please do.
→ And in other Trumpy news: Last Friday, the 45th president endorsed Ohio senate candidate J.D. Vance, who in 2016 identified himself as a Never Trumper and called Trump “an idiot.” That’s all ancient history now: “I think Trump was a great president,” he said at a town hall this week. “When the facts change, you gotta change your mind.”
And it turns out that Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy—stalwart Trump booster—told Liz Cheney he’d call the president and ask him to resign. McCarthy denies it. But, and I hate to admit it, Rachel Maddow has the tape:
→ More polls show Americans moving right: University of Virginia’s Center for Politics changed their ratings on 11 house races across the country—all in the direction of Republicans. Meanwhile Cook Political changed eight ratings on house races also toward the right. In-the-bag Democratic races changed to likely wins. And likely wins changed to toss-ups.
→Young black Americans turn against Biden: In 2014, there were 6,095 black Americans murdered. In 2020, that number rose to 9,941. That’s almost 4,000 more deaths. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a new poll from Pew asking people to identify the number one problem in communities in which they live finds that, yet again, black Americans choose the issue of crime/violence as their No. 1 concern, far above Covid, racism, and even housing.
And while a broad swath of young Americans have turned against Biden, with 18-34 year olds showing a 20 point drop in job approval since Jan 2021, according to a Civiqs poll, and the drop is even higher among young black Americans. Biden has seen a 30 point drop among that group. (The sharp Derek Thompson pointed that out.)
→ Google Docs is our sensitivity reader now: A new update rolling out to Google docs–which we couldn’t live without—is prompting people to use more inclusive language in their writing. The software wants kinder, gentler words used for derided minorities like landlords. May Google Docs suggest proprietor instead? The word mother is of course verboten. When a reporter for the tech news site Motherboard wrote the word Motherboard, Google docs underlined it and alerted the reporter: “Inclusive warning. Some of these words may not be inclusive to all readers. Consider using different words.” The site, which I will now call Parentboard lest my Google yell at me, called the update “very broken.”
→ Who is banning all these books: There’s an odd game going on right now where both the left and right really want to say the other side is doing book banning, which these days just means removing titles from school reading lists. And, well, it’s both sides. One Florida county is pulling 58 books from the school library. The list was posted by Attorney General candidate Daniel Uhlfelder and books on it range from reasonable-to-remove (“50 Shades of Gray” was in the school library???) to totally unreasonable (“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison). Meanwhile, a new survey from the School Library Journal shows the top books teachers wanted to remove from summer reading lists, and here’s that list: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” all of Shakespeare, and “The Great Gatsby.”
→ My favorite influencer: Hasan Piker, the handsome socialist media star, went to Coachella wearing an $1,100 Gucci shirt. The man who got really rich raging against the rich is seeing his audience turn on him (first for his mansion and his Porsche, then for the private jet and the Gucci). But Piker seems to be having a great time making fun of the “haters.” We continue to salute this brilliant champagne socialist who makes a reported $210,000 a month on Twitch. We are all fools for not having done this first.