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The Righting deciphers conservative media for outsiders

Source image: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/righting-deciphers-conservative-media-outsiders-94088246

NEW YORK — Nearly six years into monitoring the content of conservative media outlets for his website and newsletter The Righting, Howard Polskin hasn’t lost the capacity for surprise.

Case in point: when Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, and many of his long-time media allies let fly with anger and insults. Two impeachments, two years of election denials and a U.S. Capitol riot didn’t have the impact of a disappointing showing by Republicans in the midterm elections.

“I didn’t expect the level of vitriol, there’s no question about it,” he said.

Trump’s inauguration in 2017 started Polskin on his journey. A New York-based former reporter and publicist for the likes of CNN and J.K. Rowling, Polskin was mystified at why his fellow Americans had elected Trump, and sought explanations.

He began studying outlets popular with conservatives and sending links to fellow left-leaning friends who wouldn’t think of clicking on the Washington Free Beacon, the Epoch Times, PJ Media or Chicks on the Right.

“I didn’t start it as a business,” he said. “I started it for myself.”

It has grown into a newsletter with subscribers that number nearly 10,000 and a website. Polskin, with a former Newsweek editor and freelance writers, does original reporting on people behind the outlets and coverage trends like the targeting of transgender rights and how powerful women of color are disparaged. He’s produced an “A-Z Guide to Right Wing Media” with 130 entries.

The Righting also follows which sites are gaining and losing popularity in an industry fully dominated by FoxNews.com.

Polskin is impatient for more people who are not enmeshed in conservative media to read what he’s compiling. He received an important endorsement when California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in September that he reads The Righting each morning.

Newsom told Politico that it gave him “a different appreciation and a different understanding of the ruthlessness of the right.”

People who are not fans don’t appreciate the breadth of the conservative media ecosystem, and how it has spread beyond radio and websites into podcasting, publishing and YouTube channels, Polskin said. The left doesn’t come anywhere close.

He’s not switched sides, but Polskin admits his work has pushed him more toward the political center. He’s grown to appreciate the talents of certain writers, like Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter, a lawyer and former stand-up comic, and Ray Cardello, a blogger from New Hampshire.

“Prior to The Righting, I never went to these sites and it has opened my mind to a different way of thinking,” he said. “While I might not agree with it all the time, I get the underlying philosophy.”

He worries about the sites succeeding in painting Democrats as having views on the fringe and making them unpalatable to many Americans.

Scroll through some of the headlines Polskin has collected and you’ll find conventional conservative wisdom mixed with some that border on the bizarre: “Wokeness is the Acid Dissolving Christianity,” “Unvaccinated Women Shun Vaccinated Single Men,” “Climate Extremism is Making Americans Mentally Ill” and “DeSantis Flashes his Alpha-Dog Energy in Meeting with Diminished Biden.”

Pre-election newsletters contain an assortment of cold takes: “Bet the House on a GOP Landslide,” “Even Dems Now Realize Midterm Elections Will be a Bloodbath,” “All Signs Point to a Landslide for Liberty” and “Fetterman is Toast.”

“I might ridicule something, but I’m careful with that,” Polskin said. “I don’t want to get in a war with anyone. It would be time-consuming and distracting.”

For now, Polskin said The Righting is “a brand in search of a business.” A Ford Foundation grant he received in May provides the bulk of the funding, and Polskin is exploring ways to have readers donate. It has no advertising. Polskin isn’t opposed to that, although he did turn down an ad request from a gun manufacturer.

“I enjoy Howard quite a bit,” said Cardello, whose “Conservative View from New Hampshire” blog is often quoted in The Righting. “I know what side he comes from, but you can still have a civil conversation with him.”

That hasn’t always been the case with friends and even relatives since Cardello started putting his views online. He said he appreciates the exposure Polskin has given his writing to people of all points of view.

“Otherwise you’re just singing for the choir,” he said. “I put my work out there and if the only people who read it are conservatives … what have I really accomplished?”

But Cardello said he hasn’t gotten a great deal of feedback from people through The Righting. Two editors at prominent sites frequently quoted by Polskin didn’t return calls for comment.

Polskin said he saw real anger in the conservative press about the midterm election results and a need to blame someone. Trump was the most obvious choice.

He’s interested to see whether the break with Trump is permanent — and it is by no means unanimous. In one sign of softening, WND wrote that “Trump has promised to Make America Great Again — and he is probably the only person who can do it.”

And there’s always the tried-and-true target, as a headline in the Gateway Pundit illustrated: “Dems Steal Midterms as Communism Comes to America.”

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/righting-deciphers-conservative-media-outsiders-94088246

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Vatican Swiss Guard slayings back in spotlight with new book

ROME — The mother of a Swiss Guard member accused of committing one of the most sensational crimes in recent Vatican history – fatally shooting his commander and the senior officer’s wife before killing himself — is turning to the United Nations and Pope Francis in hopes of getting some closure nearly a quarter-century after the slayings.

Muguette Baudat was on hand Tuesday as her lawyer, Laura Sgro, a veteran defense attorney in Vatican criminal trials, detailed her efforts to pry information out of the Vatican and access the court file into the May 4, 1998 slayings that are recounted in Sgro’s new book, “Blood in the Vatican.”

“I’ve been waiting for more than 24 years, so I don’t expect anything,” Baudat said at a book launch event. But she added: “The book is very important.”

Within hours of the slayings, the Vatican spokesman announced that Baudat’s 23-year-old son, Cedric Tornay, a noncommissioned Swiss Guard officer, had killed Col. Alois Estermann and Estermann’s Venezuelan-born wife, Gladys Meza Romero, with his service revolver and then turned the gun on himself. The spokesman said a buildup of resentment over a reprimand by Estermann and the denial of a decoration, combined with a ″peculiar″ psychology, led to Tornay’s violent acts.

Nine months later, in February 1999, the Vatican released a 10-page summary of its internal investigation that confirmed its initial assessment. It concluded that Tornay was solely responsible for the murder-suicide but added that his marijuana use and a brain cyst the size of a pigeon’s egg could have impaired his reasoning.

Baudat spent two decades campaigning for more information and hired Sgro in 2019, asking for the Vatican investigation to be reopened. She said her request was not spurred by a belief that the Vatican was responsible, but rather to end the secrecy with which it has always handled the case.

Last year, the Vatican secretary of state intervened personally in the case and asked the Vatican tribunal to pay “particular attention” to Baudat’s request. Sgro was granted access to the court file.

In the book, Sgro details what she found in the file, as well as the conditions imposed on her by the Vatican prosecutor for viewing it: She wasn’t allowed to make copies but could only view the documentation in the tribunal, with two gendarmes standing behind her back monitoring her at all times. She was allowed to take some notes but not too many since she was explicitly barred from copying the text. She had to submit her notes to the prosecutors’ office after each viewing session, which took place over the course of a year.

And what she discovered in reading the court file, she said Tuesday, “confirmed all the doubts that the mother had about an investigation conducted in an absolutely superficial way.”

Sgro noted that at least 20 people were allowed access to the crime scene in the moments after the slayings, including chaplains, monsignors and the Vatican spokesman, none of whom wore protective gear. No fingerprints or blood samples were taken, and no DNA tests performed.

A handwriting analysis of a letter, purportedly from Tornay to his mother and foreshadowing the killings, was done on a photocopy, not the original document. The corpses were moved around the Estermann apartment, as was furniture, according to 38 photographs taken by a Vatican newspaper photographer that were in the court file. Autopsies were performed not in a hospital morgue but in the crypt of a chapel inside the Vatican walls.

“After one hour, Cedric was given up as the guilty one and the investigation was built around this, and this is absolutely the most alarming thing,” Sgro said.

The lawyer alleged that the conditions in which she was forced to work to view the file, as well as the mother’s long fight to find information about her son, constituted human rights violations that should be taken up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

There was no indication Tuesday whether the U.N. might take up her case, since such complaints must show a consistent pattern of “gross violations” of human rights, such as the policy of apartheid in South Africa.

Sgro said she had little other recourse since the Holy See is not a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore not a party to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where such appeals would normally be heard. The Holy See enjoys observer status at the U.N. and has received criticism from U.N. human rights experts over the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Sgro said she sent a copy of “Blood in the Vatican” to Pope Francis and he responded with a personal letter. His response, she said, gave her hope that the Vatican might be ready to acknowledge that its original investigation was flawed and that Tornay’s legacy might somehow be rehabilitated even if he is confirmed as the killer.

“It’s a small drop after 24 years of silence,” Sgro said. “Let us hope this drop becomes a glass of water, then a lake.”

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Clarence Gilyard, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Matlock’ actor, dies at 66

Clarence Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at age 66

NEW YORK — Clarence Gilyard Jr., a popular supporting actor whose credits include the blockbuster films “Die Hard” and “Top Gun” and the hit television series “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” has died at age 66.

His death was announced this week by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught stage and screen acting. Additional details were not immediately available Tuesday.

“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV,” the school’s film chair, Heather Addison, said in a statement. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years.”

Gilyard was a Moses Lake, Washington, native. He had a prolific career as an actor, starting in the 1980s with appearances in “Diff’rent Strokes,” ”The Facts of Life” and other shows. He then appeared in two of the biggest movies of the decade: “Top Gun,” in which he played Sundown, a radar intercept officer, and “Die Hard,” when he was featured as a villainous computer maven whose one liners included “You didn’t bring me along for my charming personality.”

In the 1990s, he was on the side of law enforcement in “Matlock,” playing opposite Andy Griffith, and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which starred Chuck Norris. His other credits include “The Karate Kid: Part II,” a stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” and an appearance alongside “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis in a commercial for DieHard batteries.

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Review: Slice into the holiday spirit with ‘Violent Night’

The holiday season is upon us and how better to celebrate than watching Santa slip several pool balls into a Christmas stocking, swing them in the air menacingly and see him cave in someone’s face?

Such is “Violent Night,” a film that clearly no one wanted but somehow nicely acts as a chaser to all the sticky sentimentality this time of year. It is billed as an “alt-Christmas action-comedy” and it may be a litmus test of who is your real tribe: If you think watching Santa try to strangle a guy with Christmas lights is funny, this is the film for you.

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, “Violent Night” has taken the season’s naughty or nice dichotomy deeply to heart, offering pounds of gore and wounds that spurt mini-fountains of blood along with tooth-aching sweetness about believing in Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s easy to initially dismiss it as an “SNL” digital short that got high on its own tinsel but there is a sort of perverse glee to seeing Santa suck on the tip of a candy cane until it is a sharp shard and then plunge it into a bad guy’s neck. Isn’t it time for Kris Kringle as a sociopath?

Few people can balance all these demands as Santa except David Harbour, who specializing in gruff-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside teddy bears. This time, his beard soaked in blood, he must save an ultra-rich family from a murderous group of home invaders with automatic weapons and military training.

On his side: “Christmas magic,” which he reveals multiple times he does not understand and which allows the screenwriters — Pat Casey and Josh Miller — a yuletide-sized logical loophole. They’ve even given Santa an origin story as a centuries-old Viking raider with a fondness for crushing skulls with a hammer. He’d be on the naughty list, naturally.

We initially meet Santa in the present day at an English pub. It’s Christmas Eve and he’s hammered. There are other men dressed as Santas this night, but they’re just pretenders, like “Bad Santa.” He’s the real thing.

Tonight, Santa is worn-out and fed-up. The children these days just demand more and more presents — just grubby consumers. He even calls them junkies. “I forgot why I started doing it in the first place,” he says. “Maybe this is my last year.”

During his rounds, he happens to linger too long at the Lightstone family compound in Connecticut. A ruthless gang has just stormed inside hoping to relieve the family of $300 million and trapping Santa with just his magic bag of presents and a pent-up desire to hurt people.

John Leguizamo, so often the comedy relief in films, here is as heavy as it gets, an anti-Christmas madman who tortures with a nutcracker and gets some of the best over-the-top lines like “Christmas dies tonight” and “Time to kill Santa.” The film soon moves into “Die Hard” territory as terrorists play cat-and-mouse with a good guy inside the building.

Santa connects with one of the hostages — a little girl (Leah Brady, sparkling like an ornament) — who still believes in Santa. “You are more than the presents you bring,” she tells him. And so he proves that Christmas is indeed alive by systematically murdering every single bad guy and girl with a sledgehammer, aided by his new friend’s “Home Alone” boobytrapping skills and all to a soundtrack of Christmas songs by Burl Ives, Bryan Adams and Slade.

This is not a Norman Rockwell vision of Santa, of course. He has a torso full of tattoos and sutures his own wounds with Christmas tree ornament hooks. He vomits, impales baddies in spiky Christmas decorations and uses the sharp parts of a pair of ice skates with surgical precision. Few films have earned their R rating better. All that’s missing is you as long as you think it’s time to add a little blood to Christmas?

“Violent Night,” a Universal Pictures release that opens nationwide in theaters Friday, is rated R for “strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references.” Running time: 112 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Online: https://www.violentnightmovie.com

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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