Yemen's New Acting President: Abd Rabu Who?
Late last night - after hours of rumors - Ali Abdullah Salih left Yemen for Saudi Arabia and more medical attention.
My guess is that his wounds are much more severe than Yemeni officials have let on, as Salih was well aware that leaving Yemen would make it incredibly difficult for him to return. (This is why he cancelled a planned trip to the US in March.)
There is a lot of speculation right now about whether or not Salih plans to return to Yemen and if the US and Saudi Arabia will be able to prevent him from doing so if he tries.
Most Yemenis are hoping and praying that he is gone for good, but fearing he may attempt a comeback.
Regardless, the fighting goes on. In Taizz today a handful of protesters have been killed, and it is reported that some of Salih's sons and nephews have remained in the country, possibly in a desperate attempt to hold some sort of a beach-head until the old man can attempt a return.
In the meantime, Vice President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi has taken over as acting president, although he is running the government (or what's left of it) from his office in the Ministry of Defense.
Hadi is not seen as a strong player on the Yemeni political scene - he was named VP after the civil war in 1994 largely as a gesture to the south. Despite being from the southern province of Abyan, Hadi remained loyal to Salih during the war, which earned him locally the name of an al-zumra southerner, an Arabic word meaning "group or troop" that has come to signify those southerners who backed Salih.
When Salih needed a southerner for balance, he chose Hadi, who was everything he was looking for: loyal, weak, and from the south.
Hadi has been a background player since he was named vp - while Salih's family and clan continued to gobble up the headlines and positions - although Hadi's family also benefited from proximity to power. His brother, who narrowly escaped assassination in 2009, is head of security in Abyan.
Today, Mareb Press, printed a brief bio of the acting president, which is largely a resume converted into a word document. Since it is in Arabic, I will provide a couple of highlights:
Hadi was born in 1945 in the of Dhakin in Abyan. A career military man, Hadi spent some time in the UK studying military tactics back when Aden was a crown colony in the 1960s.
Later, after the war that led to Britain's departure from Aden and the rest of the south, he got close to South Yemen's new patron, the USSR, spending four years in Russia for more military training.
During the civil war in 1994 he was briefly appointed Minister of Defense before being named vice president later that year.
According to most, Hadi has neither the ambition or the ability to go after the top post for any extended period of time. But power has been known to dazzle most who draw near. For the moment, with rumors of Salih's return floating about and the fighting still continuing, most things in Yemen remain murky.
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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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