Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

A group of Republican lawmakers on the Aug. 22, 2023, during a special session on public safety called by Gov. Bill Lee. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Doing nothing, and doing even that badly

By: - September 6, 2023

There’s a problem with doing nothing — how do you know when you’re done?  It is more than a philosophical question, or a rumination on activity versus stillness.  Our state legislature has stumbled through a special session of almost no significant legislating, but failed to stick the landing on when to stop doing nothing. Perhaps we should […]

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) photographed in a meeting of the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on January 31, 2023. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Burchett plus falsehoods equals embarrassment

By: - July 31, 2023

Conover Kennard at the site Crooks and Liars had some fun recently with bizarre statements from East Tennessee U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett. The headline on Kennard’s article was, “WTF: We’re not sure if this Republican is talking in tongues or not.”  She relayed much of Burchett’s blather about Dr. Anthony Fauci blurted to Newsmax host Chris Salcedo. […]

A sign advertising the undeveloped Midway Business Park in Knox County, courtesy of the Knox County Development Corporation. (Photo: Mark Harmon)

Let’s wake up to the Chamber’s horrors

By: - June 26, 2023

In the eastern part of Knox County, Tennessee, the Midway Road exit off Interstate 40 takes you to a fascinating, and almost empty, business park. Perhaps one day it will house some significant operations, but currently (more than seven years after the Chamber of Commerce won a protracted battle with neighborhood groups over the zoning) […]

Former President Donald Trump at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority event on June 17, 2022, at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Donald Trump’s dress rehearsal revealed

By: - June 8, 2023

News organizations repeatedly have referenced a Donald Trump “dress rehearsal” before federal agents showed up to find and to seize government documents the former president shielded from being returned.  I have it on good authority the dress rehearsal went something like this: Trump pulled out a bullhorn and bellowed to the assembled staff on the […]

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn at Gov. Bill Lee's second inauguration on Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Blackburn’s Tinky Winky moment

By: - June 1, 2023

Sometimes radical right culture wars, all on their own, just slip from absurd outrage to self-parody. Perhaps the most famous moment was in 1999 when Moral Majority Founder Jerry Falwell proclaimed the purple preschool Teletubby, Tinky Winky, was gay. Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn in mid-May had her own Tinky Winky moment when she teamed […]

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Tuberville shows how we’ve lost our sense of how to argue

By: - May 15, 2023

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and former Auburn University football coach, recently fumbled a simple question from Richard Banks of WBHM radio in Birmingham.  Banks asked, “You mentioned the Biden administration trying to prevent white nationalists from being in the military. Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?”  Tuberville responded, “Well, […]

The 2023 Knox County Junior Commission. (Photo:

Knox County’s Junior Commissioners are better than the real thing

By: - May 6, 2023

Spring semester in Tennessee’s schools ends soon, but one of the strongest lessons of this semester in East Tennessee has been taught by a group of students — specifically Knox County’s Junior Commissioners, eleven high school students, each paired with an actual Knox County Commission member. The legislative year ended for four of the junior […]

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, center, with Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, at right. Ragan sponsored a bill this legislative session to ban "divisive concepts" like the teaching of meritocracy.(Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee’s legislature is confused about meritocracy

By: - April 19, 2023

The Tennessee Legislature is obsessed with extending its infamous “divisive concepts” bill, first targeting primary and secondary education, now going after college education. Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville (at least sometimes) in particular have been pushing prohibitions against certain ideas being mentioned in our college classrooms. One such […]

Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson and former Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones exit the chapel at Fisk University in Nashville, a historically Black college that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. (Photo:John Partipilo)

Appreciation for the Tennessee Three

By: - April 12, 2023

Thanks to the “Tennessee Three,” the nation, indeed much of the world, now has seen the mendacity and racism lurking just beneath the surface of our Tennessee legislature’s Republican supermajority. Like many, I watched in horror, but not surprise, as our legislators voted to expel two young, Black, eloquent representatives of the people — using a […]

In Nashville, Rev. Ingrid McIntyre hugs a mourner during a Monday night vigil for shooting victims at Belmont Methodist Church. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A grim theory on how we get gun safety laws 

By: - March 28, 2023

Nashville-based writers on this site already have written movingly about the tragic gun crime at Covenant School, yet another school shooting — this one took the lives of three children and three adults. Let me add this perspective from only a modest distance away, my adopted home of Knoxville is less than a 3-hour drive […]

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles on Nov. 8,. 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Being a fabulist is far from fabulous

By: - March 14, 2023

One definition of a fabulist is a serial liar (the other is an Aesop-like creator of fables). Being a liar fabulist is about as far away as one can get from being fabulous.  Thus, we come to the case of newly elected Tennessee U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, chief beneficiary of Nashville-area gerrymandering.  NewsChannel5 in Nashville […]

Former US Senator Rick Santorum photographed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Commentary: Tennessee must reject Santorum slights on Native Americans

By: - May 17, 2021

Another Rick Santorum outrageous statement came and went last month, flushed away like so many of his words.  His claim, however, merits reaction and debunking in many spots, notably here in Tennessee. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania turned CNN commentator, speaking at a Young America’s Foundation event, pontificated about America.  “We came here and […]