December 3, 2023

As Cable News Focused on Queen, Democratic Political Donations Slipped

In the nine days after the queen’s death, the digital fund-raising totals for Ms. Demings slipped about 60 percent compared with the last nine days of August, said Christian Slater, a campaign spokesman.

How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

Laura Carlson, digital director for the Democratic Governors Association, said in an interview on Friday that the group’s fund-raising fell from the first to the second week of September, which was a departure from past totals.

“One of the factors that kept kind of coming up was the queen’s funeral,” she said. “It definitely hurt our projections.”

In the United States, more than 11 million people watched the queen’s funeral on broadcast and cable television networks on Monday, according to Nielsen, the research firm known for its television rating figures. The total did not include those who used streaming services.

“It’s also kind of a spectacle in the way that political news isn’t,” Deborah L. Jaramillo, an associate professor of film and television at Boston University, said in an interview on Friday.

Professor Jaramillo, who is working on a book about how death is portrayed on television, said that nonstop coverage of the queen’s funeral was less costly for cable news networks and underscored their tendency to cover highly visual events.

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Will Anyone Give ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ a Chance?

To me, though, the Cold War artifact it recalled was Kremlinology — the practice of scrying every available scrap of information to discern the hidden motivations and power struggles of distant, unknowable figures. The events that drew such close attention to “Don’t Worry Darling” were not huge ones, in the scheme of things: They included a supposed feud between the director, Olivia Wilde, and the lead actress, Florence Pugh, possibly involving a pay gap between leads; the actor Shia LaBeouf’s being replaced, under disputed circumstances, with Styles; LaBeouf’s leaking messages from Wilde about Pugh; Wilde’s being served with custody papers from her ex-fiancé, Jason Sudeikis, while onstage at CinemaCon; and, above all, Wilde’s becoming romantically involved with Styles, 10 years her junior. Where the theoretical animosity between Styles and Pine was supposed to fit in was unclear. But by then people were happy to believe anything — even the baseless-rumor equivalent of jumping the shark — as long as it kept building the story of a woman who fostered a work environment so fraught that one star would spit on another, in public and on camera, for no apparent reason.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is just the most recent example of a film maudit, or “cursed film.” That was the term coined for Jean Cocteau’s Festival du Film Maudit in 1949, describing works that had been wrongfully neglected, or deemed too outrageous to merit serious attention — “movies rendered marginal by disrepute,” as J. Hoberman would later write in The Village Voice. Films made by women are not the only ones stuck in this defensive position, but they seem disproportionately prone to it, often with criticism centering on the director herself. (Elaine May’s experience on “Ishtar” was such that Hoberman classed her as a cineaste maudit; she wouldn’t direct again for decades.) Hints of a production’s chaos or excess are less likely to be taken as signs of unruly genius, and more often framed as messiness or lack of authority. The more that talk swirled around “Don’t Worry Darling,” the more its quality — and then, specifically, Wilde’s competence — were called into question.

Out comes the Tomatometer, and the party’s over.

Cinema has a century’s worth of lore about films troubled by budget overages, clashing personalities and on-set affairs: Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski’s wanting to kill each other while making “Fitzcarraldo,” mental breakdowns on the set of “Apocalypse Now,” Peter Bogdanovich’s leaving his actual genius of a wife after an affair with a young Cybill Shepherd on “The Last Picture Show.” These productions were plagued by bad press and rumors, but they never faced the wrath of stan Twitter. These days, fans spread rumors and memes, which are picked up by media outlets, which disguise their prurience with speculation about box-office prospects or reviews. Then out comes the Tomatometer, and the party’s over.

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The Midterm Election’s Most Dominant Toxic Narratives

A month after Florida passed legislation that prohibits classroom discussion or instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity, which the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law in March, the volume of tweets falsely linking gay and transgender individuals to pedophilia soared, for example.

Language claiming that gay people and transgender people were “grooming” children for abuse increased 406 percent on Twitter in April, according to a study by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

The narrative was spread most widely by 10 far-right figures, including midterm candidates such as Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, according to the report. Their tweets on “grooming” misinformation were viewed an estimated 48 million times, the report said.

In May, Ms. Boebert tweeted: “A North Carolina preschool is using LGBT flag flashcards with a pregnant man to teach kids colors. We went from Reading Rainbow to Randy Rainbow in a few decades, but don’t dare say the Left is grooming our kids!” The tweet was shared nearly 2,000 times and liked nearly 10,000 times.

Ms. Boebert and Ms. Taylor Greene did not respond to requests for comment.

On Facebook and Instagram, 59 ads also promoted the narrative that the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community and allies were “grooming” children, the report found. Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, accepted up to $24,987 for the ads, which were served to users over 2.1 million times, according to the report.

Meta said it had removed several of the ads mentioned in the report.

“The repeated pushing of ‘groomer’ narratives has resulted in a wider anti-L.G.B.T. moral panic that has been influencing state and federal legislation and is likely to be a significant midterm issue,” said David Thiel, the chief technical officer at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which studies online extremism and disinformation.

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Allan M. Siegal, Influential Watchdog Inside The Times, Dies at 82

In 2003, in the aftermath of a scandal in which the fabrications of a reporter, Jayson Blair, led to the fall of the newsroom’s top two managers, Mr. Siegal headed an internal committee that reviewed the paper’s ethical and organizational practices.

Among its recommendations was the creation of a new job: standards editor. Mr. Siegal was the first to be named to the position, adding the title to that of assistant managing editor, a post he held from 1987 until his retirement in 2006. At the time, his name had been listed among the paper’s top editors on the masthead, which appeared on the editorial page, more than twice as long as anyone else’s.

Max Frankel, the executive editor who promoted Mr. Siegal to assistant managing editor, called him “a shining symbol of the career of an inside man.”

“Elevating him was intended to serve notice that there is a distinguished career available at The Times for non-reporters,” Mr. Frankel added, in an interview for this obituary in 2005. “It was a peculiar form of affirmative action, but he was superbly qualified.

“I used to call him ‘Pooh-Bah,’” Mr. Frankel continued. “He had seven or eight portfolios that dominated every aspect of the production of The Times, the output of news, and all the rules and regulations — drawers full of contracts with the business side as to how much space we got, and how we filled it, and where the ads went. The whole design and structure of the paper was in his hands.”

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Jasmine Guillory Finds Her Happily-Ever-After as a Romance Writer

In 2013, while dealing with health issues, she binged on historical romance novels, including Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series. Ms. Guillory said she worried that, as a former history major, she would get bogged down in research if she tried to such a book herself. When she began to read contemporary romances, including “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev, she saw her future, she said.

She joined an online writers’ challenge that prompts fledgling novelists to commit to writing 50,000 words in one month. In April 2015, working from an idea she had sketched out in the Notes app of her phone, she said she spent every spare moment getting words on the page. “I looked forward every day to coming home from work and sitting on the couch and writing,” she said. She hit the 50,000 mark, then kept going.

By June she had a draft of “The Wedding Date,” a flirty, funny novel about a romance between a Black woman who is the chief of staff to the mayor of Berkeley, Calif., and the white male pediatric surgeon whom she meets while stuck in an elevator during a power outage.

After revising the manuscript and sending it out over the next year, she signed with a literary agent, who encouraged her to come up with a second novel. In 2017, Ms. Guillory signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House.

In 2018, the publisher released “The Wedding Date.” The book got glowing reviews, and later that year, Ms. Guillory’s second novel, “The Proposal” — about a writer in Los Angeles who refuses a Dodgers Stadium Jumbotron proposal from her boyfriend — spent five weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. In 2019, Ms. Guillory left her day job for good.

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One Last Broadcast for Queen Elizabeth II

The coronation had worldwide effects too. It began the age when TV would bring the world into your living room live — or at least close to it. In 1953, with live trans-Atlantic broadcasts still not yet possible, CBS and NBC raced to fly the kinescopes of the event across the ocean in airplanes with their seats removed to fit in editing equipment. (They both lost to Canada’s CBC, which got its footage home first.)

The next day’s Times heralded the event as the “birth of international television,” marveling that American viewers “probably saw more than the peers and peeresses in their seats in the transept.” Boy, did they: NBC’s “Today” show coverage, which carried a radio feed of the coronation, included an appearance by its chimpanzee mascot, J. Fred Muggs. Welcome to show business, Your Majesty.

The one limit on cameras at Elizabeth’s coronation was to deny them a view of the ritual anointment of the new queen. By 2022, viewers take divine omniscience for granted. If we can think of it, we should be able to see it.

So after Elizabeth’s death, you could monitor the convoy from Balmoral Castle in Scotland to London, with a glassy hearse designed and lit to make the coffin visible. You could watch the queen’s lying-in-state in Westminster Hall on live video feeds, from numerous angles, the silence broken only by the occasional cry of a baby or cough of a guard. The faces came and went, including the queen’s grandchildren joining the tribute, but the camera’s vigil was constant.

After 70 years, however, television has lost its exclusive empire as well. Even as it broadcast what was described — plausibly but vaguely — as the most-watched event in history, traditional TV shared the funeral audience with the internet and social media.

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Food Supply Disruption Is Another Front for Russian Falsehoods

Leah Bray, the acting coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, a division of the State Department that tracks misinformation and disinformation, said that both in peacetime and now in wartime Russia had used “information manipulation as a weapon to bring about its desired political ends.”

These efforts, the center said in a recent report, have so far been concentrated in the Middle East and Africa, where food shortages have been most acutely felt. And, the report added, the conspiracy theories have spread through Kremlin-controlled state outlets such as RT Arabic and RT en Français, as well as through Chinese state media.

Ms. Bray said she was especially concerned that Russia would manipulate similar emotions this winter, when energy insecurity is almost certain to increase. The intent of the Russians, she added, is to pit Western nations against one another in a blame game over who is responsible for the shortages.

“Russia is going to use these tactics more broadly to seek to erode Western unity,” Ms. Bray said.

With the invasion of Ukraine causing an energy crisis across Europe, the European Union has proposed mandatory electricity cuts, among other measures.

If these ideas have been rather slow to take hold in the United States, that should not be seen as a sign that they won’t soon expand their reach, experts warned.

“There was a long lag with QAnon, too,” said Denver Riggleman, a former intelligence consultant and a staff member for the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol who has worked with the Network Contagion Research Institute. “Then all of a sudden — boom. And that’s what I think we’re looking at here.”

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‘The Woman King’ Surprises With $19 Million at the Box Office

It doesn’t have to be all sequels and superheroes.

The Woman King,” an original war drama starring Viola Davis, collected a strong $19 million in ticket sales for Sony Pictures Entertainment over the weekend, at least 25 percent more than analysts had expected. It was the best September opening for a similar film — pedigreed, awards-oriented, based on historical events — since Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” in 2016.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from a screenplay by Dana Stevens, “The Woman King” focuses on the Agojie, an all-female warrior troop in Africa in the 1800s. The trailer and other preview materials for the film prompted calls for a boycott on social media over concerns that it glossed over or ignored aspects of the slave trade. But “The Woman King” received rapturous reviews. More important, ticket buyers gave the PG-13 movie an A-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, which bodes well for “you’ve got to go see it” word of mouth.

With little competition for older ticket buyers in the weeks ahead, “The Woman King” could ultimately generate in the vicinity of $100 million in the United States and Canada, box office analysts said. “These movies play to healthy multiples during their holdover weeks,” said David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy.

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What Will Apple Do With Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’?

Though Mr. Smith can still be nominated for his work, the reaction to the slap means the Oscar chances for “Emancipation” have dimmed exponentially.

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Indeed, there are some in the film industry who believe that releasing “Emancipation” along with other Oscar contenders this year will only anger academy voters who were embarrassed by Mr. Smith’s actions.

Bill Kramer, the newly installed chief executive of the film academy, said on a recent call with reporters that next year’s show will not dwell on the slap, even in joke form. “We want to move forward and to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema,” he said. “That’s our focus right now.”

The presence of “Emancipation” would make that difficult. Stephen Gilula, the former co-chief executive of Fox Searchlight, the studio behind such Oscar winners as “12 Years a Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” said releasing the film in the awards corridor between now and the end of the year, would put undue pressure on the movie and make the slap the center of the conversation.

“Regardless of the quality of the movie, all of the press, all the reviewers, all of the feature writers, all the awards prognosticators are going to be looking at it and talking about the slap,” Mr. Gilula said in an interview. “There’s a very high risk that the film will not get judged on its pure merit. It puts it into a very untenable context.”

To some, the film may be too good to keep quiet. Apple set up a general audience test screening of “Emancipation” in Chicago earlier this year, according to three people with knowledge of the event who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss it publicly. They said it generated an overwhelmingly positive reaction, specifically for Mr. Smith’s performance, which one of the people called “volcanic.” Audience members, during the after-screening feedback, said they were not turned off by Mr. Smith’s recent public behavior.

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Will Welch Leads GQ to ‘the New Masculinity’

“A controversial cover is by nature a good cover,” Ms. Wintour said in an email. “You want a cover to make people sit up and take notice, and get them talking — what is the point of a cover otherwise? Of course, Will knows this as well as anyone.”

Mr. Welch’s office on the 25th floor of One World Trade is windowless, befitting a top-of-the-masthead editor in these not-so-high-flying times for the magazine industry. He has a framed photograph of Malcolm X on his desk. Near the red sofa, tucked into a spot that Mr. Welch can see from his workstation, is a portrait of Ram Dass, the spiritual leader and author of “Be Here Now.”

“I like to keep my eye on him,” he said during an interview in his office on a quiet summer day.

Mr. Welch grew up in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. His mother was a clerk for the Georgia State Supreme Court, and his father was a lawyer. As a teenager, he was often on the basketball or tennis court, and he played drums in “a bunch of different rock ’n’ roll bands,” he said. After majoring in English at Columbia, he started his career as a music journalist on the staff of The Fader, writing profiles of Kanye West, the White Stripes, Big Boi and Jerry Garcia.

He joined GQ as an associate editor in 2007 and became the top editor of its spinoff, GQ Style, in 2015. Along the way, he married Heidi Smith, who describes herself on her website as a “psychosomatic therapist, herbalist, and flower essence practitioner.” They live in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn with their two cats.

Not long after Mr. Welch ascended to his current job, GQ’s advertising revenue shot upward, according to Condé Nast. In 2020, Mr. Welch got a shiny new title: global editorial director of GQ, which has 19 editions around the world, 11 owned and operated by Condé Nast (the others are licensed).

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