And Valerian debuts, plus a plutocrat calls out his kin
Well, here’s a pickle for you, if you happen to be the President of the United States. On the one hand, you want law enforcement to have sweeping powers over all data sources in the country, so you can, you know, keep America safe from terrorists, criminals and scoundrels. On the other hand, it turns out that some of that data could implicate you and your campaign in a major investigation being chaired by, well, the folks in charge of law enforcement.
The investigation? Russian meddling in US elections. The data? Use of Facebook’s advertising and promotion tools to boost Russian fake news stories. And the big question? Did the Trump campaign actively work with Russian operatives to promote newsfeed stories that helped Trump’s cause, and harmed Hilary Clinton’s campaign?
Facebook so far has a half-answer to that question: “We have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.” Perhaps, but what is known is that Trump’s campaign bought a ton of those ads — so many, in fact, that Facebook staff worked “alongside” Trump’s team, helping guide the campaign’s strategy (such coordination is not unusual for a large client). If a significant portion of that spend went to support the Russian fake news campaign, well, that certainly would be suspicious.
Kellogg’s pulled its ads from Breitbart News, the fringe-right news site. Breitbart is famous for headlines like “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” and “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off” — as well as for being a center of support for team Trump, whose head coach, Stephen Bannon, is Breitbart’s chairman. Now Breitbart is fighting back with a shrill campaign to boycott Kellogg’s (Variety).
If you think this is just a media-biz kerfuffle, think again: It’s more a marker of the end of the era in which brands could stand above the U.S.’s increasingly well-defined political and cultural divides and avoid taking sides. Breitbart claims that Kellogg’s is practicing “un-American” “economic censorship.” Kellogg’s says its decision is not about politics at all but about the company’s values.
Walmart has long been a target for critics on the left who lament the “Walmart effect” — the way the superstore chain tended to strangle small local merchants and lower wages and benefits as it has conquered the U.S. retail marketplace. Now there’s a new kind of Walmart effect on the horizon.
In 2015 Walmart found that its stores were a mess, its shelves were often empty, and its customers were unhappy. The retail giant took the shocking step of raising wages for its front-line workers, investing in their training, and opening paths for them to advance (The New York Times).