Jun 23, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

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1 big thing: Race's media moment

Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Getty Images

Across every type of media — music, TV, books, podcasts and more — messages about systemic racism and social change are topping the charts and dominating the country's attention span, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: Just as the late 1960s propelled new soundtracks, movies and shows about social justice, media today will serve as a lasting record of this moment in America's history.
  • At the same time, material that doesn't meet today's standards of respect for racial justice is getting axed.

Music: Beyoncé released a new song, Black Parade, on Juneteenth. The song focuses on black empowerment, and references reparations and her own roots growing up in the South.

  • Artists like Wale, Black Eyed Peas, Teyana Taylor and others all debuted new albums and songs on Juneteenth to commemorate the protests.
  • A remixed version of Childish Gambino's 2018 hit "This is America" has become a viral anthem on TikTok to discuss police brutality.

Television: U.S. demand for Netflix’s "Dear White People" grew 329% during the week of May 27-June 2, just as the nationwide protests were starting, per Parrot Analytics. Another Netflix show, "When They See Us," was up 147%.

  • Both shows launched last year, but interest in them intensified after Netflix launched a Black Lives Matter collection, promoting over 45 titles about racial injustice and the experience of black Americans.
  • Reality shows about police officers — including "Cops" and "Live PD" — have been canceled for glorifying police violence.
  • ABC's sitcom "Black-ish" has been moved up to return in the fall.

Movies: Several films on Netflix with black themes are receiving traction, thanks in large part to Netflix's new collection, including Spike Lee’s newly released film "Da 5 Bloods" and Ava DuVernay’s documentary "13th."

  • HBO Max temporarily removed "Gone with the Wind."

Books: Bestseller lists from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the N.Y. Times are dominated by books on race.

  • Books about race topped both nonfiction and fiction lists, meaning consumers want to engage with the issue on an emotional level.

Podcasts: Top podcasts on Apple's charts include the N.Y. Times’ 1619, about the history of slavery in America; NPR's Code Switch, about race and identity; and Crooked Media’s Pod Save the People, which discusses race and social justice.

Gaming: Fortnite removed police cars.

2. Protests fuel record traffic to donation sites
Data: SimilarWeb. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Traffic to donation websites has exploded over the past few weeks amid the social reckoning around systemic racism, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • More than 20% of that traffic came from countries outside the U.S., which speaks to the tremendous impact that the protests are having abroad.
  • Traffic to sites collecting donations around police reform organizations saw by far the biggest increase.

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3. Axios interview: Bolton's fears about a second Trump term
Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

John Bolton tells Axios' Jonathan Swan that his fears about what could come to pass if President Trump is elected to a second term include inviting biological weapons attacks, the U.S. withdrawal from NATO and criminalization of political dissent.

  • Why it matters: Never before in American history has a former White House national security adviser made such an assessment of the president they served less than a year ago — while that president remains in office.

In an interview yesterday at his office in downtown D.C., ahead of today's release of "The Room Where It Happened," Bolton elaborated on hypothetical scenarios that keep him up at night:

Biological weapons: "If Trump's response to the pandemic has proven [anything] to anybody who's contemplating acquiring a biological weapons capability, it's that he's not able to respond to it in a systematic fashion," Bolton said.

  • "Whatever the source of this pandemic, it's a roadmap for the people who do control biological weapons, or aspire to biological weapons, what can happen."

Withdrawal from NATO: Bolton says it's "highly questionable" that Trump would stick with NATO through a second term.

Alliances: "I think the alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, are question marks at this point," Bolton said. "If you believe the world's far away, then why have these alliances at all?"

Swan pressed Bolton on how he can vouch for the veracity of his stories given that he now says he destroyed all his government notebooks. He was cagey about his methods:

  • "I took lots of notes. The notes, as I said in my exit interview from the White House, were destroyed during the course of my tenure there."
  • But he would not say how he could write, working entirely from memory, a hyper-detailed, 500-page book with detailed dialogue and scenes.

"I've been a litigator for many years," Bolton said. "I know witnesses who sit in the same meeting and come away with different recollections. I'm perfectly prepared to deal with that."

  • "I am very comfortable that what I wrote in the book is an accurate depiction of what happened. And I think it will stand the test of time."

The other side: Trump, in a Friday interview with Swan, described Bolton as a "nut job" who may be the "dumbest human being on earth" for persistently supporting the Iraq War.

4. Pic du jour

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Protesters tried to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House yesterday before being dispersed by police.

  • The statue — a target because of the 19th century president's ruthless treatment of Native Americans — remained on its pedestal, AP reports.
5. ⚾ Play ball!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It looks like baseball will finally be played in 2020, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker reports.

  • MLB owners voted unanimously yesterday to implement a 60-game season that will begin around July 24, assuming players sign off on health-and-safety protocols and agree to arrive in home markets by July 1 to begin "spring" training.

We'll soon find out what changes have been made to MLB's original 67-page coronavirus safety plan, which included stipulations against high-fives and chewing sunflower seeds — and required managers and coaches to wear masks in the dugout.

  • Sign up for Kendall Baker's daily newsletter, Axios Sports.
6. Red states get more cautious
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; case data from The COVID Tracking Project. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Red states are starting to get more cautious now that they're seeing spiking coronavirus cases, Axios' Margaret Talev writes from the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • In the states where new cases climbed by 50% or more last week, populations that had been leaning into visits with friends, or getting haircuts, are now pulling back compared with Americans in states that were hit harder earlier on.

The states with the highest percentage jumps in cases last week (June 9-16) included Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Wyoming, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

  • Ipsos compared the behavior of survey respondents living in those states with respondents who live in more than a dozen states where the case rates also rose last week but at smaller rates.

The bottom line: 85% of respondents worry about a second wave.

7. Behind Trump's forthcoming SCOTUS list

DACA supporters rally outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted after last week's DACA decision: "I will be releasing a new list of Conservative Supreme Court Justice nominees, which may include some, or many of those already on the list, by September 1."

  • The list may be adjusted to remove some older candidates and replace them with potential nominees who are younger, women or people of color, according to a source familiar with the discussions, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

Trump didn't give a heads-up to key outside allies.

  • The Federalist Society's Leonard Leo, who helped Trump with his first list, said he was "surprised" by the tweet, but added that a new list makes sense.
  • Top aides and advisers had been urging Trump to put together a new list to remind his base why a Republican needs to remain in the White House.

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8. Tech blasts Trump's extended H-1B visa restrictions

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Tech companies — including Facebook, Amazon, Google, Intel and Twitter, along with several tech trade groups — quickly spoke out against the Trump administration's announcement that it is extending a ban on entry by those with visas through the end of the year, Axios' Ina Fried and Scott Rosenberg write.

  • Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn tweeted: "Imagine if Real Madrid or Barcelona could only hire players from Spain. They probably wouldn’t be the best in the world anymore."

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9. College students still want Warren

Even as the protests over the police killings have upped the urgency for Joe Biden to select a black running mate, college students are favoring Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes from a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

  • Why it matters: The poll of 854 college students shows that progressive ideology is still a top consideration for young voters.

The results:

  1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 28%
  2. Sen. Kamala Harris: 19%
  3. Stacey Abrams: 13%
  4. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: 11%
  5. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who has withdrawn from consideration): 8%
  6. Former national security adviser Susan Rice: 7%
  7. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: 6%
  8. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.): 4%
  9. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham: 2%
  10. Rep. Val Demings (Fla.): 1%
10. 1 small to go: Plants fill opera house seats
Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP

In Barcelona, Spain, this string quartet is rehearsing at the Gran Teatre del Liceu for the first concert since the lockdown.

  • Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants.
  • The concert also livestreamed for humans to watch, AP reports.

Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia said he was inspired by nature during the pandemic: "I heard many more birds singing. And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature."

  • At the end of the eight-minute concert, the sound of leaves and branches blowing in the wind resonated throughout the opera house like applause.
Mike Allen

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