Barbershop: Trump On Facebook, And Scalia On Affirmative Action
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for our visit to the Barbershop - that's where we gather some interesting folks to hear about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up today are Ammad Omar. He's an editor here at NPR. Hi, Ammad.
AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Hey, Michel, good to be here.
MARTIN: Reporter Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast is with us. Thanks for stopping by.
OLIVIA NUZZI: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: And Alexis Nedd is a writer at BuzzFeed and joins us from our studios in New York. Hi, Alexis.
ALEXIS NEDD: Hi there.
MARTIN: So unless you are on some kind of, I don't know, media fast, then you probably know that this was another week where Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner presidential candidate said things that many people find offensive, racist, you know, pick your adjective. So tomorrow, I want to mention, we're going to speak to a group of media executives to ask them how media organizations should talk about things, including such questions as whether they/we should use words like racist, offensive and so forth. I just want to mention that that's tomorrow. But while the media is debating that, some people are taking matters into their own hands on social media. There's a new tool out there that allows people to de-Trumpify their Facebook news feeds. The site is called friendswholiketrump.com. It shows who among their Facebook friends likes - in Facebook language - Trump, and then presumably you can act accordingly. So Olivia, you've been covering the elections for The Daily Beast. In fact, you just did a piece about what you called up some of the donors to Trump. And I just wanted to ask how you feel about that.
NUZZI: Well, Trump fans, in my experience, are not quiet about being Trump fans. I found that you learn who they are pretty quickly. So I don't know how many people are going through their Facebook feed and aren't sure who's supporting Trump. But it's almost like publicly shaming these people in a way - or privately shaming, I guess. It's very interesting that people would feel strongly enough against Trump to want to weed people out of their Facebook friend groups.
MARTIN: Does that - that really does surprise you?
NUZZI: It surprises me. I mean, I think normally people have all sorts of disagreements during elections. But that doesn't mean that you have to weed them out of your social lives or your social networks...
NUZZI: ...And de-Trumpify.
MARTIN: ...Yeah. What about you, Alexis? What do you think about the whole idea?
NEDD: I have used it, so I guess that kind of says how I feel about the whole idea. I mean, I don't mind having disagreements with my friends on Facebook. But especially when you work in a newsroom and you spend a lot of time on Twitter and the media, sometimes you just want your own social media to be, like, a safe spot for you to not have to think about people that want to, you know, deport Muslims in the country. So I actually didn't have to unfriend anybody because all the people that like Trump on my list were other writers, so I think they're just following him for the news, and one person who's dead, so I don't know...
MARTIN: Oh, no.
NEDD: ...That he's saying very much.
MARTIN: Oh, dear. Ammad, what do you think about this? Is that tricky journalistically to like someone?
OMAR: I've definitely been in multiple seminars in journalism where there's the ethics question about this. And I think the consensus is you can like the thing because there's news value. It doesn't mean that you are a fan of said candidate. And the similar thing with, like, re-tweeting - if you ever follow journalists on Twitter, they'll all have the little thing in their profile saying, re-tweets are not an endorsement. Please, you know, don't get me in trouble for this. I'm just sharing the news.
MARTIN: But let me move on to another person who's getting a lot of attention for things that he's said - a very prominent person - and that's Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Supreme Court's hearing arguments about whether race can continue to be considered in some fashion in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. And you might remember that this is the court's second bite at that particular apple. The admissions policies of that institution, as well as others, have been debated at the court for years. So on Wednesday, Justice Scalia said...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ANTONIN SCALIA: There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less - a slower-track school, where they do well.
MARTIN: A lot of - go ahead, Alexis - go ahead, I hear you sighing...
NEDD: Oh, did you hear? (Laughter). You could hear my sighs from D.C.
MARTIN: ...Just tell us what you have to say.
NEDD: I feel like he couched this opinion in there are those who contend that, and then went forward to say I feel like what he might actually feel about the case, which is that African-American students might be - might be better served at slower-track schools. And I, as a multiracial African-American student, I find that distinctly and specifically offensive to me because it's painting an entire race as well, maybe you guys would do better if we just slowed it down for you, you know, use small words so you guys can understand. It just - it doesn't make any sense to me that someone can in this day and age just continue to think that African-American students are basically separate and not even quite equal.
MARTIN: I know that you went to Columbia, which is also a highly-selective university - congratulations. Did you feel that you had to contend with that attitude, that that was part of the water there?
NEDD: As far as at Columbia, I did not. I did have issues in high school in being admitted to Columbia, and I would have my peers say oh, you got in because it's affirmative action and you're black. And that would always, you know, kind of rankle me.
MARTIN: Do you think it might be true?
NEDD: The way I think of affirmative action is affirmative action is not there to put a less-qualified student into a space that a more-qualified white student would get. It's there to correct and make sure that black students, minority students aren't overlooked when they are already qualified. And, I mean, when this happened, I mean, I tweeted, you know, I was a varsity athlete. I was an award-winning Model U.N. student. I had perfect SATs. I did not get my spot at Columbia because of affirmative action. But if there is institutional bias in that office, affirmative action made sure I was not overlooked because of my race.
MARTIN: You know, one of the things about the case, Ammad, that has always puzzled me, particularly about Abby Fisher as a plaintiff is that there were many more white students with lesser grades and scores than she who were admitted to the University of Texas at Austin. So I've always been puzzled...
MARTIN: ...Why that's the argument. What's your take on this?
OMAR: Well, when I first heard Justice Scalia's comments, my kind of initial reaction was that justices kind of often play this devil's advocates role while they're hearing oral arguments. But I spoke with our legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg, who was in the court. She says people weren't really gasping. There wasn't a whole lot of shock in the room when Scalia was making those comments. But she did say a lot of times it's easy to see how people would think that the justices are kind of couching their own opinion in these arguments that they're making. And it's certainly with Scalia - you know, he's kind of a lightning rod as is. He's a consistently conservative judge. Liberals aren't, you know, really big fans of Antonin Scalia. So if you see him in a poor light like that, you're probably going to think the worst. And if you like Scalia, if you're a conservative, you're probably going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
MARTIN: Olivia, what do you think? And I do want to mention that Twitter had a response here. Abby Fisher, as we mentioned, is the would-be student who brought the case before the Supreme Court because she wasn't admitted to the University of Texas at Austin. And there's a hashtag #StayMadAbby that was trending yesterday, where black college students are responding with graduation pictures showing their degrees and citing their credentials. Olivia, what do you think about all that?
NUZZI: Well, what I think is that - I mean, there was 2004 Stanford Law Review piece that argued that students who are admitted to colleges because of their race have lower scores, they can't keep up. I think that is probably what Scalia what Scalia was talking about when he said that some people believe this. But I think people are inclined - I mean, as you were just saying - to think that Scalia is coming from a bad place when he says that because all of his previous statement, all of his previous decisions - he's very conservative, and he's not...
MARTIN: But why is conservative proxy for racist?
MARTIN: I don't understand that. I mean, conservative can mean that you believe in, say, a literalist interpretation of the Constitution...
NUZZI: Sure, but he's...
MARTIN: Does that mean that you think black people have less intelligence than white people?
MARTIN: Does it mean that?
NUZZI: ...He's very conservative, but he's also very - I mean, this is someone who, in an interview with New York magazine, is talking about he thinks the devil literally lives on Earth. I mean, this is someone who has very I think unorthodox views. So I don't think people would be surprised if this was really Scalia articulating his own personal beliefs. I think it's just troubling to hear someone in Scalia's position give legitimacy to views like this.
MARTIN: All right, well, on a happier note, primetime TV's on hiatus for the holidays. And that means that you can catch up on all the shows you missed until the winter premieres in January. So I have to ask you all because I am so far behind, I need some guidance. Alexis, what are you doing? What are you - are you going to binge watch - you have any tips about the best way to binge-watch, especially if you're maybe getting some time off for the holidays?
NEDD: Oh, best way to binge watch, always make sure you have snacks, always make sure that you actually take time - maybe not after every episode but maybe after every three episodes to, like, stand up, maybe look out a window, breathe in some air before you dive back in.
OMAR: Sound advice.
NEDD: ...Make sure that you are watching a show around roughly the same time as one of your friends is because you don't want to binge watch alone. If you binge watch alone, you're going to have no one to talk to about it. And then...
OMAR: Is that like drinking alone, you never binge watch alone?
NEDD: Yeah, never - never binge on anything alone, basically. It's sadder that way.
MARTIN: I have to admit, thank you. That is such good advice. That is why I'm so sad because all my friends are way ahead of me on everything that I want to see. I have nobody...
OMAR: Well, Michel...
MARTIN: Thank you for identifying this. I have no one to talk to because I'm so far behind.
OMAR: My whole Netflix setup was on my PlayStation 3, which has gotten the - which I Googled - the blinking red light of death, so it doesn't work anymore. So I'm not binge-watching anything until Santa brings me a new one - hint, hint.
MARTIN: Dropping hints to the Omar family, dropping just...
OMAR: Slash the Martin family, whichever.
MARTIN: Just letting everybody know. Olivia, what about you?
NUZZI: I did binge-watch "Grace And Frankie" alone, the Jane Fonda sitcom, and it didn't make me sad at all. I really enjoyed it. I watched the whole thing over a weekend a few weeks ago, and I thought it was great. But I tried watching "Jessica Jones" last night, the first episode and I just couldn't - I couldn't do it. I didn't like it. I don't know if I'm just not...
NUZZI: ...Not as cool as the rest of the Internet that loves it, but...
NEDD: It's a very, very good show. Give it a chance.
MARTIN: Alexis Need, Olivia Nuzzi, Ammad Omar, thank you all so much.
OMAR: Thank you.
NUZZI: Thank you.
NEDD: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.