The Newsroom: We Are All Tweeting Towards Bethlehem

How could anyone doubt The Intercept’s commitment to fearless journalism? Who among you is strong enough to stare into the Sorkin Void™ and not unravel into psychic vertigo from the rom-com to the debates over shield law to the zeitgeisty take on sexual assault to the collapse of old media? More flirting! More tweeting! More encrypting! And the walking! […]

How could anyone doubt The Intercept’s commitment to fearless journalism? Who among you is strong enough to stare into the Sorkin Void and not unravel into psychic vertigo from the rom-com to the debates over shield law to the zeitgeisty take on sexual assault to the collapse of old media? More flirting! More tweeting! More encrypting! And the walking! And the yelling! And THE DYING. So die with us this week, as we review The Newsroom, episode 5. 

Natasha Vargas-Cooper: There’s a term in poker for when you bet too much and you don’t make great decisions: you are ON TILT. Aaron Sorkin was ON TILT last night.

Margot Williams: New Media Kills Old Media.

NVC: Tweeting Towards Bethlehem.

Peter Maass: I was thinking this morning, would it be possible to encrypt Sorkin so that he never writes another episode of TV? Micah, is that possible?

NVC: I also like the embodiment of new media as a fat guy with greasy hair and Beats headphones.

Micah Lee: I appreciated the Cuba part.

PM: As a speaker of what has descended to excellent broken Russian (I studied in college and the good ol’ USSR, long time ago) I can confirm that Maggie’s accent was authentically terrible but she spoke too well for someone who had just an overnight flight to work on it.

ML: It makes sense that they (and the rest of the world’s journalists) would be gathering at Sheremetyevo airport trying to see Snowden, and that they were all expecting him to board the plane to Cuba.

PM: Snowden was in a hotel in the transit area. Reporters booked flights so that they had an excuse to stay there–still didn’t see Snowden. But they wrote about the rooms they stayed in.

NVC: Because what people don’t know is that SNOWDEN IS ACTUALLY A GHOST with no reflection.

ML: Oh, he was in a hotel? Is the hotel still technically on international soil?

PM: Snowden was indeed (or apparently) booked on a flight to Cuba and reporters got on board and he wasn’t there so they took pictures of his alleged seat (a window seat not aisle, as Sorkin had it) and there was no booze served on the flight so WORST ASSIGNMENT EVER.

NVC: This sounds like the Rhianna Plane #777

PM: The hotel was at the airport and technically/legally was part of the international zone, which gave Russia the excuse to pretend they didn’t have full jurisdiction over him, to arrest him or put him on a flight to New York. Until Putin finally decided to give Snowden asylum. Interesting thing–Snowden had internet access at the hotel, so was communicating (a bit) with outside world, if memory serves.

MW: There’s this article about reporters stranded on the Cuba bound plane. Here are tweets and photos from the reporters on the Snowdenless flight. And this from the Independent:

“Eventually, the plane’s doors closed and the dozens of Russian and international journalists already on board realised that seat 17A was empty and they were traveling to Havana without the man they had all been chasing … With the 2pm departure time drawing near there was a furious scramble as journalists were instructed not to film around the departure gate, with some even having footage forcibly wiped from their cameras.”

NVC: His room must have been so cramped and dirty by that point. Because you could not really leave? And what if there was no room service??

PM: There WAS room service. An enterprising reporter who got himself into that hotel wrote about it. Snowden must have had a lot of Bitcoin:

Now it’s midnight, and I’m getting edgy. I feel trapped inside my airless room, whose double windows are tightly sealed. And the room is extortionate: It costs

  • $300 a night, with a surcharge of 50 percent slapped on because I will be staying past noon.
  • Buffalo mozzarella and pesto dressing starter? 720 roubles (about $20).
  • Ribeye steak: 1,500 roubles (about $50).
  • Bottle of Brunello di Montalcino red wine: 5,280 roubles ($165).
  • A miniature bottle of Hennessy XO cognac: 2,420 roubles ($80).

PM: “I call the front desk. ‘You need a visa to go outside and smoke, Mr. Phillips,’ the receptionist says.” Visa to go out and smoke. Let that settle in. Next thing you know, HBO will demand actual awareness of issues for its star writers to put pen to paper.

Lee: When the scene started with Jim and Maggie in the Moscow airport, Maggie says: “I think you should consider letting me do the talking, at least at the top. We won’t have much time with him, and I want to ask him obviously the extent at which they’ve been keeping metadata, how much the agency learns from this kind of information, and in what ways the FISA court provided insufficient oversight of the NSA.” And then Jim’s response is: “I want to ask him at what point he decided to declare war on the United States.” Maggie: “So I think you should let me get the ball rolling.” Jim: “You and your whole generation’s contempt for institutions.” Jim doesn’t seem to be concerned about NSA spying.

NVC: What’s strange is how Jim has been so committed to REAL NEWS this whole season (and show) and here is the story of the century and he’s like UGH MY GF WRITES FOR GAWKER! WHO IS GOING TO REPLACE FRANKLIN FOER? NO I WILL NOT BRUSH MY HAIR!

MW: The rom-com was so unbearable. I wanted to see NEAL.

PM: Neal is a ghost.

NVC: And I was a little bummed about the source killing herself. And then everyone was like, “BUT I DONT WANT TO TWEET!!!!!!!!!” and didn’t really care about the source?

PM: Source shmource.

MW: WHY did the source kill herself? I mean Lily, her name was Lily. Is there precedent for sources killing themselves?

PM: And why in front of DOJ? To protest Will’s incarceration? Seems her beef was with CIA which did the evil deeds in Kunduland, right?

ML: They didn’t mention the Associated Press publishing a story at all — did the AP journalist simply not publish? And that had something to do with the source killing herself?

NVC: Right, I thought maybe I missed that but it seems like they completely dropped that story line? I think her suicide could be a part of the narrative that whistleblowers are unstable.

PM: Not just whistleblowers but rape victims too.

NVC: *Sigh* I guess we need to talk about the sexual assault victim interview scene.

MW: “I’m obligated to believe the sketchy guy. I’m morally obligated.”

PM: I didn’t get that at all. I’m morally obligated to investigate the shit out of the sketchy guy, that’s what I am.

MW: But it seems, just like with the Gawker app, that it is the fault of the interwebs. It’s her WEBSITE that is the problem, not the rape.

PM: I don’t know which Sorkin misunderstands less–journalism or sexual assault.

MW: Sorkin hates the internet that’s all.

PM: In journalism, the story is often neither black nor white. You investigate and you publish a complicated story. Maybe you don’t pin innocence or guilt on someone, you air the evidence and say what it shows. You don’t throw up your hands because you can’t prove something 100 percent. You show the weaknesses if there are any. Serial has been good at that.

PM: I think there was a scene in “All The President’s Men” where Jason Robards, playing Ben Bradlee, said something to the effect of “You guys better be right” when one of the big Watergate stories was published by the Post.

MW: Ben Bradlee says, “Goddammit, when is somebody going to go on the record in this story? You guys are about to write a story that says the former Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you’re right.”

NVC: Well here’s something that has been a mortal flaw in the show from inception: The notion that what this cable news show does is close to journalism. Don wasn’t writing a story, he was producing an on air segment.

MW: He was trying to NOT produce an on air segment.

ML: That’s true. Written journalism can get so much more in-depth than broadcast journalism can hope for.

NVC: It’s also a problem that has actually been SOLVED by the internet. FOR INSTANCE! When Mac says, she can’t put Lady Gaga’s manager on because then she would have to cut the Supreme Court decision coverage, there is an opportunity cost there: Something you publish/air takes the place of something you don’t publish/air. BUT ON THE INTERNET YOU CAN PUBLISH EVERYTHING!!! THERE IS INFINITE SPACE!! Death to cable news.

ML: That’s a good point. Internet media still has the problem of what to feature on the homepage, and what to invest journalists’ time in writing–but it can have as much content as it wants.

MW: Sorkin doesn’t just hate the internet, he hates broadcast news too. He wants the Washington Post, as edited by Ben Bradlee and read by President Bartlett.

NVC: I want Sorkin to take over The New Republic.

PM: Again, let’s encrypt Aaron Sorkin and forget the password.

ML: We can maybe just use a one-way hash function on Sorkin, like SHA512. That would make him indistinguishable from random noise, with no way of returning him back to the original Sorkin at all. No keys or passphrases necessary.

PM: A few weeks ago I read something about a team that was building an encryption program to encrypt things that could only be decrypted in the future. I am serious. Cryogenic Encryption™.

MW: Does it encrypt only the head?

NVC: Can we encrypt Sam Waterston’s body and then wait for a cure for social media?

MW: Personal note: I have loved Sam Waterston since I saw him play Prince Hal at the Delacorte in 1968. I have watched Law & Order more than 1000 times. This is not a good end. I am devastated by the crazed demise.

ML: That “encrypt to the future” thing isn’t as special as it sounds. It involves splitting the key in multiple pieces and giving them to different libraries and archives with the promise not to give them up until a specific date. But they could easily give them up and decrypt early if they wanted to. And the paper requires a “time clock accessory” that appears to keep accurate time and can’t be tampered with. I’d attack that one by building a fake time clock accessory that I could tamper with (which is a different problem probably with it’s own challenges), and decrypt the future message immediately.

NVC: Talk that Nerd, Micah!

MW: Regarding Will’s “cellmate.” Was it the worst, most hackneyed, “it was all a dream” plot copout OR was it total ripoff of Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater”?

NVC: I do feel like the cellmate scenes were very Fight Club. Or Will’s twin he killed in the womb.

MW: No, it was his father.

PM: No, it was the fish. There was a fish in the photo. The cellmate was the fish.

ML: The cellmate said “I don’t like Jews” and then the next thing he said is “You think I’m prejudiced don’t you?”

NVC: Fish are known for their anti-semitism.

PM: And they’re terrible whistleblowers. Ever see a fish try to blow a whistle? Not pretty.

ML: Whales make better whistleblowers, because they have blowholes.

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