On Sunday, Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander devoted his column to conservative complaints that the Post was slow to cover the ACORN story. Alexander quoted Pew's Tom Rosenstiel and Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli saying, essentially, that the Post and the media overall is insufficiently attuned to conservative issues and reflects a Democratic viewpoint.
I responded at length that same day, pointing out that if this is the case, you sure couldn't prove it by looking at media coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, the 2000 presidential election, the run-up to the Iraq war, the disparate treatment of Democratic health care proposals and Republican tax cut proposals during the recent presidential primaries, among other examples.
On Monday, Alexander wrote a blog post following up on his column. The post, "Newsroom Diversity Should Include Ideology," was noteworthy for including not a single word reflecting the point of view of progressive media critics.
Instead, Alexander quoted Rosenstiel again -- this time arguing that the erosion of trust for the media among Democrats is because Democrats are "rooting" for Obama and don't want him "to be criticized in the press" and they feel "anxiety" that "conservative media is having more of an impact." Neither Rosenstiel nor Alexander so much as hinted at the possibility that liberals and Democrats increasingly distrust the media because the media helped the Bush administration lie the country into an unnecessary war, or because it handed Bush the White House in the first place by relentlessly attacking Al Gore.
And he quoted a former Knight Ridder vice president who "called for newsrooms to do a better job of understanding the claims of bias, especially from conservatives." (That he did so while ignoring substantive criticism from liberals should be a rather clear sign that the media is more responsive to conservative complaints than Alexander's column and blog post suggest.)
And he quoted two more people claiming that journalism attracts more liberals, forgetting his own recent experience with the fact that personally liberal journalists often produce news reports that favor conservatives.
And at the end of his one-sided blog post that omitted any discussion of progressive media critiques, and omitted any discussion of the possibility that the media is too responsive to conservatives rather than not responsive enough -- a blog post that followed up on a column with the same flaws -- Alexander calls for ideological diversity:
News organizations, once led exclusively by white men, long ago embraced gender and race diversity. It was a matter of equality, of course. But it also was a matter of accuracy. With diversity, newsrooms became more attuned to the perspectives of women and the multicultural dimensions of the communities they served.
It's the same with ideology. News organizations like The Post are more accurate when they are exposed to the range of perspectives among their readers, both print and online.
I couldn't agree more.
Knowing who Glenn Beck is, and the type of discourse he engages in, it would be the height of foolishness to expect a reasoned discussion of U.S. history within the pages of Arguing with Idiots. But this is getting absurd.
In his chapter titled, "U.S. Presidents: A Steady Progression of Progressives," Beck treats us to his list of the "Top Ten Bastards of All Time." The occupants of that list, in ascending order, are Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Teddy Roosevelt, Bernie Madoff, Adolf Hitler, Keith Olbermann, Pontius Pilate, FDR, Tiger Woods, and Woodrow Wilson. That's right, in Beck's book, mass slaughter of millions of innocents makes you a less reprehensible person than the presidents who won both World Wars for the United States.
The whole reason the list exists is so Beck can go on an extended tirade against Woodrow Wilson, who earned the top spot because he "[s]hredded our First Amendment by arresting thousands of people for speaking against U.S. involvement in WWI." This, of course, is in reference to the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. And Beck is right -- both acts were horrible offenses against the First Amendment and resulted in the unjust imprisonment of many Americans, including, ironically, many members of socialist-leaning industrial unions that Beck finds so objectionable.
But if the Sedition Act was so heinous an offense as to make Wilson history's greatest "bastard," then shouldn't John Adams be on Beck's list as well? After all, Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal for anyone to "write, print, utter or publish" anything "false, scandalous and malicious" about the government. Does that not count as "shred[ing] the First Amendment"? You could even make the case that Adams was worse than Wilson, because he was actually there when the First Amendment was drafted and ratified.
That wouldn't fit into Beck's theology, though, which is borrowed from his intellectual guide, the discredited far-right conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen, and will not entertain even the slightest criticism of the Founding Fathers. In Beck's and Skousen's view, the Founders were divinely inspired and infallible, whereas Dwight Eisenhower was a communist and Woodrow Wilson was worse than Hitler.
But in fairness to Beck, if he had included John Adams, that wouldn't have left room on the list for Tiger Woods, who's on there because "[h]e's got a Swedish-supermodel wife, a gazillion dollars, and he plays golf for a living... bastard!"
Yesterday morning I complained that so few members of the Beltway press were taking time to weigh what the political consequences of the health care 'debate' might be for Republicans, as GOP members uniformly oppose the Obama legislative push. The only angle that appeared to be in play for the press was what the "risks" are for Democrats.
Well, late yesterday WSJ.com posted a good item on its Washington Wire blog which examined how the politics of health care are playing out for the GOP:
There's more bad news for Republicans: about three times as many Americans disapprove of how they are handling the heath care debate than approve, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
A clear majority, 65%, said they disapprove of how congressional Republicans are handling the issue of health care overhaul, while just 21% said they approve. Those numbers are little changed from last month—their approval rating stayed the same, but the disapproval was slightly lower at 62%.
With atrocious numbers like that, I'm sure the GOP would prefer that the press goes back to its previous Democrats-only reporting model.
UPDATED: There's growing evidence that many in the press are missing the larger story by training most of their attention only on Democrats in terms of the political "risks" in play with health care.
From MSNBC's First Read:
Who will get blamed if health care doesn't get passed this year? Per the poll, 10% say Obama, 16% say congressional Democrats, and 37% say congressional Republicans.
Today Media Matters for America officially confirms the breaking, bombshell, news that the conservative blog RedState.org has deep, shadowy connections with ACORN, the organizing group for low- and moderate-income communities.
As the post below illustrates in vivid detail, RedState.org has clear ties with ACORN and it didn't take editor-in-chief Erick Erickson's rolodex to find them.
It goes something like this...
RedState.org is owned by Eagle Publishing which also owns the right-wing magazine Human Events, right-wing book slinger Regnery Publishing, and the Conservative Book Club.
Mike Krempasky is the co-founder of RedState.org and continues to serve on its board of directors. In addition to serving on RedState.org's board, Krempasky works as an Executive Vice President at Edelman, a major public relations firm with long octopus-like tentacles stretching throughout the business, political and governmental world.
As RedState.org's Erickson has so painstakingly pointed out, ACORN has like, tons of majorly huge ties to the White House – the group's CEO actually had contact information for real people in the White House. Edelman -- which again, employs RedState.org's Krempasky -- too has major ties to the White House. In fact, the First Lady's press secretary once worked at Edelman.
What about this connection... Krempasky worked with Leslie Dach at Edelman. Dach now works for Wal-Mart and recently co-signed a letter on its behalf in support of a key part of President Obama's health care reform plan with SEIU president Andy Stern. As we all know by now thanks to Erickson's crack reporting, SEIU and ACORN are basically one in the same.
So, if we really want to play six degrees of separation – you know, so we can find everyone and everything associated with this commie pinko organization – one can tie ACORN to RedState.org, Regnery Publishing, Human Events magazine and the Conservative Book Club without too much effort.
How absolutely scandalous. This, I fear, is only the beginning. Just look at all of the authors now unmistakably tied to ACORN... prominent conservative like Haley Barbour, Michael Barone, William J. Bennett, Tony Blankley, Pat Buchanan, Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich, Bernard Goldberg, Denny Hastert, Hugh Hewitt, David Horowitz, Laura Ingraham, Wayne LaPierre, G. Gordon Liddy, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Oliver North, Ted Nugent, Mitt Romney, Bill Sammon, Mark Steyn and R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. among many, many others including numerous conservative Senators and Members of Congress and the likes of Gary Bauer, L. Brent Bozell III, Larry Elder, Terry Jeffrey, Charles Krauthammer, Larry Kudlow, Bill O'Reilly, Tony Perkins, Michael Reagan, Rick Scott and John Stossel.
Special Note to Glenn Beck: Feel free to run this story without digging too deep or sourcing it back to me personally. I know how seriously you take this issue and the craft of journalism in general.
Personal Disclosure: I once worked with RedState.org's Erickson doing some new media type stuff at MSNBC for about a week leading up to the 2004 general election. It was an experience that… oh no, I think that means I'm tied to ACORN too. Noooooooooooooo!!!
From Arguing with Idiots, Chapter 12 "The U.S. Constitution: Lost in translation":
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Perhaps no amendment has been twisted and turned as much as this one. The "birthright citizenship clause" was originally meant to ensure that children of freed slaves would be American citizens. Of course, we don't really have that problem anymore, so here's the 21st-century revision:
All persons who successfully sneak into the country will be allowed to stay indefinitely. All crimes committed by those lawbreakers (i.e., identity theft, fraud, and tax evasion) will be ignored. These non-American Americans will be afforded free health care at emergency rooms, free education,, and special in-state tuition deals at colleges, not afforded legal citizens. All children born of these lawbreakers shall immediately become citizens of the United States. Any person attempting to thwart this revision of Section I will be labeled racists, hatemongers, xenophobes, and all-around bad people.
We noted this morning that the newspaper is starting up a new conservative blog, which is like Hershey's starting a seperate blog on its website for chocolate lovers; it's sorta redundant. Still, the daily continues to dance around its partisan roots. The newspaper just ought to openly embrace its GOP role, rather than continuing this kabuki dance.
Then again, important Beltway insiders like Howie Kurtz play along with the Time's game and pretend it is a serious, impartial newspaper.
But if that's the case, how do you explain this headline and article from today's WashTimes [emphasis added]:
U.S. 'diversity czar' takes heat over remarks
And the lede:
President Obama's diversity czar at the Federal Communications Commission has spoken publicly of getting white media executives to "step down" in favor of minorities, prescribed policies to make liberal talk radio more successful, and described Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela "an incredible revolution."
Note the casual use of "diversity czar" both in the headline as well as the article. (And note how the quotation marks around it are dropped in the lede of the news article.) But "diversity czar" is not a real phrase. Meaning, there's no such thing as a U.S. "diversity czar," and Obama does not have a "diversity czar" at the FCC. That's simply the WashTimes trying to mainstream the right-wing rhetoric about so-called administration "czars," who have become the new GOP boogieman.
Technically, there are no "czars" in this administration or any others. That whole name game is a media creation that goes back decades and is used to describe officials whose responsibilities are slightly larger, or more encompassing, than traditional administration posts. And yes, over time the shorthand has been used quite often. (i.e. The Drug Czar.)
Now however, the WashTimes is pretending that there's a "U.S. diversity czar." There is not, which is why no other newspaper in America, according to Nexis, has used that phrase this year in a straight news article to describe anyone within the Obama administration. It's simply the WashTimes adopting right-wing rhetoric for its headline.
Same with the lede. There is no "diversity czar" at the FCC. There's a "diversity officer," but the position does not come with "czar"-like powers, however that is defined. Again, it's just the WashTimes aping the GOP Noise Machine rhetoric and turning the FCC position into a scary sounding "czar" in a news article. And again, according to Nexis, no other mainstream news outlet in the country has used "diversity czar" in a news article to describe that FCC position.
So I'm about 70 pages into Glenn Beck's newest book, Arguing with Idiots, and I have to admit, Beck does paint a pretty convincing picture of an idiot. The premise of the book is that Beck is engaged in an ongoing argument with "the idiot," who comes armed with some truly idiotic statements, such as, "They may not be perfect, but France is doing socialism right -- we should be more like them," and, "Private schools aren't beholden to unions, but they should be closed because they're only for the rich."
It should be noted, however, that in these 70 pages, Beck provides just one example -- just one -- of a real person or group actually making the argument he attributes to "the idiot." The rest of "the idiot's" absurdly simplified arguments add up to a crude caricature of the progressive, socialist, communist, fascist, peacenik, pot-smoking, transgender hippies that, in Beck's mind, are destroying the country.
Page 70 offers an excellent example of what I'm talking about. After three pages devoted largely to attacking teachers who refuse to grade papers in red ink, "the idiot" argues: "If we only put as much money into this country's schools as we do its defense, everything would be fine." Beck offers this riposte:
We are all familiar with the bumper stickers pining for the day that the defense budget goes to the schools and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale, but comparing educational spending with national defense isn't particularly fair, clever, or logical.
First of all, we have to spend on money on defense because if we don't defend our country -- well, the schools won't matter much. Take the Republic of Georgia for instance. Do you really think citizens there are worried about standardized test scores or drunk Russian soldiers driving tanks down their streets?
So we've moved on from Arguing with Idiots to Arguing with Bumper Stickers. I can't tell if that's a step forward, backward, or sideways. Either way, I'm not familiar with those bumper stickers, nor am I familiar with any public education advocates who argue that we stop spending money on national defense. And what does Georgia have to do with any of this? Does anyone begrudge Georgia for spending on its national defense? None of this makes any sense.
To read this book is to watch Glenn Beck argue with himself, and then boast about how he's winning the debate.
Convinced that the possibly stolen contact list of emails and phone numbers belonging to ACORN's CEO represents the key that will unlock far-reaching empire that the cash-strapped ACORN represents, right-wing blogger Erick Erickson returns today with another installment in his (barely coherent) guilt-by-association marathon.
Following the leads provided by the magical contact list, Erickson thinks he's onto a blockbuster story which, to any sane observer, seems to be that activists often keep in touch with one another via phone calls and emails. But he's got bigger ideas. And boy, this contact list only convinces Erickson there's more to the story. Way more [emphasis added]:
For many years it has been speculated that SEIU [union] and ACORN share a common foundation. This seems to suggest as much. In fact, in at least one appearance on the contacts list, an SEIU official has an ACORN email address.
Jackpot. A single SEIU official has a single ACORN email address. Uncanny. It's like Erickson's now Woodward and Bernstein rolled into one.
It seems Republicans are optimistic about recapturing the New York governor's chair in 2010. They see "hope," reports the WSJ. And how does the WSJ know? Republicans said so, of course.
Number of Republicans quoted in article: 3
Number of Democrats quoted in article: 0
Even more awkward for the Journal is the fact that it left out any mention of the brand new polling results, which show Democrat Andrew Cuomo (and NY's AG) currently trouncing possible Republican rivals, if the election were held today:
The attorney general leads Giuliani by 52 percent to 39 percent and has a 66 percent to 16 percent win over Rick Lazio, the former congressman who on Tuesday formally announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz on Monday:
We have two other news stories in today's Post about the substance of what the president said. My job is to be the media critic.
That second sentence is noteworthy because Kurtz often seems to forget this. That morning's column, for example, was more an assessment of Barack Obama than of the media. Today's runs nearly 1,400 words, but if you want to find any media criticism in it, you better bring a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers. One section, for example, consists of nothing other than Kurtz printing two paragraphs of Glenn Beck's attacks on Mark Lloyd. Another is all about political peril for Democrats. Another is devoted to reprinting excerpts of other reporters' excerpts of Taylor Branch's transcripts of conversations with Bill Clinton.
Anyway, in playing amateur political pundit rather than professional media critic, Kurtz has been pushing the "Obama is overexposed" theme hard. So I was curious to see if he'd mention the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found only 34 percent of Americans feel that they "see and hear President Obama too much," while 54 percent say they see and hear him the right amount, and 9 percent would like more. Kurtz does mention it, but only in passing -- and doesn't mention that the poll undermines his own arguments that Obama is "overexposed."
I guess that's the kind of thing a media critic would do.