The hidden-camera trick which produced the ACORN story has led lots of conservatives to toast a new era in right-wing journalism. Chris Wallace hails the sting as important "investigative reporting." But of course, it's not really journalism at all.
Here's the definitive proof, in case you missed it over the weekend. Anti-ACORN film maker James O'Keefe told Wallace his objective is to "destroy" people and that no, he doesn't know if he broke any privacy laws in Maryland when he taped ACORN workers, because he has no idea what the law there is in terms of hidden cameras.
Like I said, that aint journalism.
On his Fox program last Friday (rebroadcast on Monday), Glenn Beck hosted a group of moms who theoretically represented what is on the minds of the American people. "Tonight," he explained, "we're going to talk to actual people about what concerns average Americans."
"When regular people oppose the government-run health care," Beck explained, "and let their voices be heard at town halls and tea parties all across the country, they're labeled 'angry mobs' and 'tea-baggers,' and now, 'domestic terrorists,' 'gun-toting radicals.' Do these look like gun-toting radicals to you?"
Beck drove the point home: "I think you're going to find their concerns quite normal, indeed, and rational."
So what are "normal" and "rational" concerns in the mind of Glenn Beck?
Average Americans believe that the Obama administration and the mainstream media are tearing America apart along racial lines
One of Beck's guests, an African-American woman named Mary Baker, stated her belief that "in this time in our nation, we should be together," before lamenting that, "It seems like we're being so torn apart." Beck asked who was to blame, and culprits were quickly assigned. "It's the government," one guest said. "It's the media, for sure," said another. Stephanie Scruggs, a 9-12 Project coordinator, was even more specific:
The only people I have heard doing the name-calling are Nancy Pelosi, the pundits on CNN, the pundits on ABC, NBC. I quit watching regular news on the night of the election when they called me a racist because I happen to live in the South and didn't vote for Barack Obama. So, I must be a racist. I don't watch them anymore.
Regarding Ms. Baker, she is the author of a recently published editorial entitled, "Why I am no longer an African American," a piece she mentioned on Beck's program. The article argues that Obama's election "has resulted in even more racial division" and that we are witnessing a resurgence of "anti-American sentiments" stemming form "the Black Power Movement, Nation of Islam, or the Black Nationalist Movement." "The classification of me as an African American," Ms. Baker writes, "says that although I live in America, my loyalty and allegiance are to Africa."
Ms. Baker concludes her piece with the following argument:
Is this division amongst us perpetrated by our very own government? It is obvious that the inspiration for the classification of African American has nothing to do with those born of African descent. It is a radical group of Black Americans who hold to the anti-American views of those shared by Jeremiah Wright, Professor Gates, Jesse Jackson, President Obama and many others who came out of the radical Civil Rights Movement.
Promoting the idea that Obama's election has turned black radicalism and nationalism into the official policies of the United States government is an explicit goal of the current conservative media movement. Stoking racial tensions is clearly a goal as well. And, as usual, the blame is fixed exactly 180 degrees away from where it should be. The promotion of such beliefs is not the work of the White House or MSNBC. Rather, it is Beck who is hyping the specter of race-based policies by invoking the theme of "reparations," and it was media conservatives who called the president and his first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, racists. By contrast, it was President Obama who, during his first national speech in 2004, stated plainly and unequivocally, "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
Average Americans believe that vaccinations are part of a government plot to exert "control" over our families
On the program, Beck implied that he was against flu shots. "I'm talking to one of the top five doctors in the world," he said (the world-renowned physician was not named), "and I'm trying to find out the flu. Am I going to allow the government to give my child a flu shot?"
"No, don't do it," a mother responded." "Take them out of school," said another. "You know what this is about?" a third guest asked. "One word -- it is about control." Later in the program, a mother who was homeschooling her children explained her decision: "I didn't want them being exposed to everything that they're exposed to in schools. I didn't want to vaccinate even on the government's schedule."
The list of government-mandated inoculations for children attending public and private schools includes such historically devastating diseases as hepatitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and polio. The fact that infection and death rates from these diseases have fallen so precipitously over the years is undoubtedly connected in large part to widespread inoculations. (A 2007 Harvard study estimated that 1.1 million cases of polio alone have been prevented in the United States.) And yet, Beck allowed his show to promote a generalized rejection of such a practice, one considered a staple of modern medicine.
Average Americans believe that the United Nations is stripping them of their right to raise their children as they see fit
On the program, a guest made the following claim, which Beck allowed to stand without challenge:
Parental rights are being taken away by the United Nations right now. Barbara Boxer is very involved with the United Nations Children's Rights Commission, trying to put our children's rights, including going to church, going to do homework, anything of that -- they can be taken out of your home.
The United Nations Special Commission on Human Rights is indeed focusing on issues involving children. As the commission's website explains:
While victims of injustice and poverty have always had trouble being heard, none have had more trouble, historically, than children. Whether exploited as child labourers or prostitutes, drafted as young teenagers into armed forces, forced as young girls into a lonely life as domestic workers, deprived of an education to work on the family farm, or denied adequate nutrition and health care, children need help and protection from an adult world that perpetrates most of the abuse.
Further statistics highlighted by the U.N. include:
In the last decade, an estimated two million children have been killed in armed conflict, many of them by some of the 100 million landmines thought to be concealed in 62 countries. A total of perhaps four to five million more have been disabled as a result of their experience in war, and more than 12 million have been made homeless.
As for child labour, while experts agree that there are few accurate statistics available, the best estimates from the ILO [International Labour Organization] are that there are nearly 80 million children under 15 working as labourers. It is also estimated that the number of children under 18 involved in prostitution exceeds two million, one million of whom are in Asia and 300,000 in the United States.
Despite such horrific realities -- realities which the United Nations is at the very least publicizing in the hope that they might be addressed -- Beck allowed his program to serve as a forum for the broadcast of blatantly anti-U.N. views. The substance of the actual work of the U.N. Human Rights Commission was not addressed. This should be surprising, considering Beck's rage against the former ACORN employees who offered advice on how to set up a fake underage brothel.
Are these truly average Americans?
There were many other parts of the broadcast that are worthy of correction -- guests, for example, blamed Obama for "apologizing for freedom," bowing "to kings," and asking forgiveness "from dictators" -- all falsehoods that networks like Fox have actively pushed, even cropping the president's words in a deliberately deceptive fashion to make the point.
But the central question viewers should ask themselves after watching a show like this one is the following: Are these the kind of views we want to become "average" in America? Beck is doing his best to create such a reality. The confusion and misguided concern that result from his misinformation are obvious for all to see, and should make the deleterious nature of the conservative media machine all the more apparent.
Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz begins today's "Media Notes" column with a section on reaction to Roman Polanski's arrest. Kurtz quotes right-wing bloggers Patterico, Ann Althouse, and Ed Morrissey -- but no progressives.
He doesn't quote, for example, my criticism of two Washington Post columnists who argued for lenience towards Polanski. He doesn't quote Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect. Or Jill Filipovic at Feministe. Or Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber. Or Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. Or any of countless others who have been critical of Polanski and his defenders.
Kurtz' decision to quote three conservative bloggers and no progressives is bad enough. What's worse is that Kurtz quotes Morrissey claiming that defending Polanski is, as Kurtz puts it, a "liberal cause":
At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey sees Polanski as the latest liberal cause:
"Hollywood has tried to sell the statutory rape as some sort of misunderstood love story. They tried again last year in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. The reality is that Polanski drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl . . .
"The victim would now prefer to see the charges dropped, but that doesn't account for 32 years of fleeing justice. Polanski still needs to be held accountable for his crimes, at the very least by getting hauled back to an American court to face the process of justice. He's no hero; he's a rapist, and it's about time that someone make it clear that being a fabulous Hollywood director does not give one a license to commit violent crimes."
Kurtz offered not so much as a hint that any liberals have been critical of Polanski and his defenders; he simply quoted and paraphrased a conservative blogger claiming liberals support Polanski. And then he left out any of the progressive criticism of Polanski that would have disproved the conservative blogger's bogus claim.
And yet Washington Post executives tell us the paper needs to be more responsive to conservatives. Right.
Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe passes on an opportunity to explain that the Republicans have dramatically increased the use of the filibuster over historic norms:
VP tie breaker: I just realized how funny that question is! With this strange use of the non-filibuster filibuster, the VP's role is hugely curtailed, isn't it? There are few tie votes, because those bills never make it past the minority's filibuster. How often has the VP had to break a tie, since this strange, undemocratic Congressional "rule" (protocol?) was contorted into it's current bastardized form?
Ed O'Keefe: Both Gore and Cheney definitely had to break a few ties in their day.
That was O'Keefe's full answer. Of course, part of the reason Gore and Cheney had to break a few ties is that there weren't nearly as many filibusters as there are now -- which was precisely the point of the question. But O'Keefe completely ignored the obvious reality that the Republicans are currently making extraordinary use of the filibuster -- that there is not only nothing democratic about the filibuster, there isn't much precedent for its current preeminence, either.
Norman Ornstein explained last year:
From its earliest incarnation, the filibuster was generally reserved for issues of great national importance, employed by one or more senators who were passionate enough about something that they would bring the entire body to a halt.
But after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the filibuster began to change as Senate leaders tried to make their colleagues' lives easier and move the agenda along; no longer would there be days or weeks of round-the-clock sessions, but instead simple votes periodically on cloture motions to get to the number to break the log-jam, while other business carried on as usual.
Still, formal filibuster actions-meaning actual cloture motions to shut off debate-remained relatively rare. Often, Senate leaders would either find ways to accommodate objections or quietly shelve bills or nominations that would have trouble getting to 60. In the 1970s, the average number of cloture motions filed in a given month was less than two; it moved to around three a month in the 1990s. This Congress, we are on track for two or more a week. The number of cloture motions filed in 1993, the first year of the Clinton presidency, was 20. It was 21 in 1995, the first year of the newly Republican Senate. As of the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, there were 60 cloture motions, nearing an all-time record.
What makes this Congress different? The most interesting change is GOP strategy. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has threatened filibuster on a wide range of issues, in part to force Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to negotiate with his party and in part just to gum up the works. Republicans have invoked filibusters or used other delaying tactics on controversial issues like Medicare prescription drugs, the war in Iraq, and domestic surveillance-and on non-controversial issues like ethics reform and electronic campaign disclosure.
David Weigel at the Washington Independent does the honors as he quickly dismantles Kaus's did-ACORN-steal-the-election-for-Al-Franken nonsense. (Apparently Kaus can't tell the difference between a partisan opinion column and a newspaper "story.")
It's one thing for, say, Newsmax to engage in this; I am mystified as to why Kaus would do it.
UPDATED: Turns out Media Matters had debunked Kaus, as well.
Last week I noted that Glenn Beck's new book, Arguing with Idiots, is a tour-de-force of straw-man attacks. Beck debates with "the idiot" throughout the book and has little difficulty smacking down "the idiot's" laughably absurd arguments, but only rarely does he provide examples of actual people making the silly arguments he attributes to "the idiot." As I wrote at the time, Beck is essentially arguing with himself, and boasting about how he's winning the debate.
Well, I had the rare opportunity to experience this same process first-hand as it leaped from the static pages of Arguing with Idiots to the vibrant world of talk radio. Today, Beck responded to a "stupid blog" that criticized the free-market health care pitch he made in Arguing with Idiots. He didn't mention the "stupid blog" by name, but since I'm so eager to put a name and face to "the idiot," I'll assume for the moment that "the idiot" is me, and Beck was responding to what I wrote yesterday about his exhortation of retail health clinics as a free-market solution to rising health care costs.
Here's what Beck and what I guess I'll call the "radio idiot" mockingly said this morning:
RADIO IDIOT: I read in your health care chapter in your dumb book, you don't even address how to cure my child's specific illness. You don't even address it.
BECK: Is this a serious critique?
RADIO IDIOT: Yes it is! Your solution for every illness is to go to Wal-Mart. You can't cure my son's impossibly rare disease at Wal-Mart.
RADIO IDIOT: Really.
BECK: I was sure that you could perform all major surgeries in the frozen food aisle at Wal-Mart.
Beck has a point here -- it would be very stupid to fault him for not addressing how to cure impossibly rare diseases in his book. Thankfully, my critique didn't come anywhere close to doing that. I specifically mentioned the plight of professional baseball player Sal Fasano, whose son has hypoplastic heart syndrome, because that is exactly the kind of serious medical condition that is primarily responsible for driving up health care costs. Beck's example of a free-market solution to rising health care costs -- retail health clinics at Walgreens -- dealt only with minor health problems, and thus didn't address the primary drivers of rising health care costs. Here's what I wrote, word-for-word:
A 2006 study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that the five most expensive health conditions to treat were heart disease, cancer, trauma, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions, and that these five conditions alone accounted for 31 percent of the total growth in health care spending from 1987 to 2000. To what extent can retail health clinics defray the expense of treating these conditions? Beck doesn't say -- indeed, it doesn't appear as though he even considered it.
Nonetheless, Beck goes on to smack his newly created man of straw right in the face:
BECK: Do you know why I didn't address your child's incurable disease in the section about Wal-Mart in Arguing with Idiots?
RADIO IDIOT: Yeah, I know why -- because you have no answers! No answers!
BECK: No, it's because that's not what that section is all about. It's not how to cure the individual children's illness, it's not about catastrophic scenarios. That particular few paragraphs is about how the free market causes new innovation and cost reduction.
RADIO IDIOT: How convenient for you.
BECK: That overarching principle is the best long-term way to attack health issues, big and small. Wal-Mart was just a good example of the small.
Beck and the "radio idiot" go on to claim that I said the entire chapter was about Wal-Mart (I didn't), and that I "cherry-picked" Beck's arguments (I didn't). You get the idea.
The bottom line is that Beck isn't interested in addressing what real people are saying. It's much easier to just make up the other side's arguments, make them sound stupid, and then heroically portray yourself as the arbiter of sense and reason.
From the September 28 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
From the Drudge Report, accessed on September 29:
From Roger Hedgecock's September 28 WorldNetDaily column, headlined, "Dead Census worker: Victim of open borders?"
Two weeks ago, Census taker Bill Sparkman died choking, hands and feet bound, hanging naked from a tree in a remote site in Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay County, Ky. Someone had scrawled "fed" on his chest with a felt-tipped pen.
Last week, Sparkman's death became fodder for more attacks on "right-wing violence." Bloggers wanted to "send the body to Glenn Beck," and a Time magazine piece speculated that Sparkman was a victim of the culture of another McCain-voting Southern state
Now it looks more like Sparkman was yet another victim of illegal drug operations on national forest land, and possibly also a victim of our still open border with Mexico.
Taking the Census in our national forests is dangerous business. Law enforcement sources say meth labs and marijuana plantations are "prevalent" in the area of Sparkman's death. Did he stumble across a drug operation in the Daniel Boone National Forest? No one is saying for sure, but the locals believe it.[...]
Our open border with Mexico has been changing American society in a number of unpleasant ways. These fires, these destroyed national forest lands, and maybe even Bill Sparkman's death, may just be the latest way.
Politico's Ben Smith debunks an American Spectator "report" that White House political director Patrick Gaspard held that same title in ACORN's New York office years ago. According to Smith, it "just isn't true."
But, Smith is quick to point out, "The Spectator piece is a model of the sort of guilt-by-association Google work in which partisans of both sides specialize."
Really? Seems to me the noteworthy thing about the Spectator isn't the "guilt-by-association," it's that the Spectator was wrong about the central fact of its "report." Do "both sides" really specialize in that? To the same degree? How about giving a comparable example?
But Smith doesn't bother. The Left and the Right are exactly the same. Isn't it obvious? Don't you remember all those false claims liberals made about George W. Bush being a murderer and a drug runner and a secret Kenyan? The false claims they made about Karl Rove working for Blackwater? No? You don't? Those things never happened? Well, anyway: the Left and Right are exactly the same.