As we've noted below, O'Keefe, the right-wing media darling who dressed up as a pimp and secretly recorded visits to ACORN offices (visits that may have broken the law), was arrested yesterday by FBI agents for allegedly trying to interfere with the phone of Sen. Mary Landrieu.
We'll actually wait for more facts to emerge before making judgments about O'Keefe's action or the arrest. But in terms of the bigger picture, we can't say today's news comes as a surprise. O'Keefe's right-wing mentor, Andrew Breitbart, likes to go on and on about how he's reinventing journalism with his site Big Government, which relentlessly hyped the ACORN videos, and how we're all watching the dawn of conservative, activist journalism.
The problem, of course, is that Breitbart and his crew don't do journalism. It's more like juvenile, name-calling propaganda. They have no idea how journalism works, no regard for its standards, and don't actually want to practice it. So, voilà! Today we get news that the FBI allegedly caught O'Keefe and his pals were trying to interfere with* a U.S. senator's phone.
On what planet does that qualify as journalism?
It will be interesting to see how Breitbart and his sites deal with O'Keefe's arrest. Even money says Breitbart, forever embracing the right-wing ethos of victimhood, blames the liberal media, or Media Matters, or George Soros. Or somebody. (Was the FBI in on the liberal conspiracy, Andrew?)
And what about Fox News? It paraded O'Keefe around as a hero for his ACORN work. Is Fox News going to touch this arrest story? Is Fox News going to ask any tough questions? (Stop laughing!)
The point is, it's not that big of a leap from being a star of Breitbart's anti-journalism site to being cuffed for allegedly intending to commit a felony. As we've noted before, Breitbart's crew seems to have little or no grasp of the law.
UPDATED: Will Breitbart continue "advertising" O'Keefe's defense fund?
UPDATED: This might not be the best time, but I'll ask anyway: When are Breitbart and O'Keefe going to finally release all the unedited ACORN tapes? Or are they hiding something?
UPDATED: Breitbart told the Washington Independent he didn't have enough information about O'Keefe's arrest to comment.
Um, when did not having enough information ever stop Breitbart in the past?
Andrew Breitbart, the man who first introduced the nation to James O'Keefe on his website BigGovernment, provided his initial reaction to Talking Points Memo on news that O'Keefe and three others were arrested by the FBI in an alleged "plot to wiretap" Sen. Mary Landrieu's office.
"I need to find information on this. I'm out of the loop on this. I will make my determination then on when to comment," Breitbart said.
Politico's Ben Smith posted the FBI agent's affidavit in the alleged plot to interfere with the phones* at Sen. Landrieu's office by O'Keefe and three others to his Twitter account this afternoon. You can read it here (pdf).
From a January 26 Times-Picayune article:
The FBI, alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in downtown New Orleans, arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.
FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O'Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office's telephone system.
A fourth person, Stan Dai, was accused of aiding and abetting Basel and Flanagan. All four were charged with entering fedral property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.
This is just odd.
As CF noted earlier, the Times today highlighted the internal conflicts (read: $$$$) that seem to be roiling around the first ever Tea Party convention, slated for Nashville next month, and which will feature Sarah Palin as the featured ($$$$) speaker.
The strange part is the Times never mentions what should be the other raging controversy; the fact that organizers have basically banned the press from covering the political convention. (Scribes will be allowed to watch Palin's speech, but the rest of the right-wing gathering remains off-limits.) Actually, after first banning reporters, organizers relented and announced they would allow in a limited numbers of 'journalists' who work for outlets that routinely provide the Tea Party with favorable coverage. (Hint: if you work for Rupert Murdoch you have a really good chance of getting in.)
That press ban is a news story, period. Considering how the Tea Party right now is being showered with all kind of media attention, and being tagged as influential and important, the convention press ban is even more newsworthy.
And trust me, if back when it was first launched and was known as Yearly Kos, that annual liberal blogger confab had announced it was banning all outside journalists, the press would have gone bananas, denouncing organizers as secretive hypocrites.
Yet the Tea Party issues its press-hating edict and outlets like the New York Times, which are banned from covering most of the convention, fall silent. And the Times is hardly alone. To date, most of the Beltway press corps has given the Tea Party a pass for planning to lock out journalists, and for only granting access to writers who are aligned politically.
UPDATED: Since Tea Party organizers will only let in writers who have written favorably on the movement, does that mean The New Yorker's Ben McGrath earned his entry this week, thanks to his Tea Party valentine?
In the entire history of American journalism, there is probably not a single writer with a more horrible record of reporting on weapons of mass destruction than Judith Miller. So of course FoxNews.com's story about a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction which graded the government on its handling of WMD proliferation features the byline of... Judith Miller.
Why might a news outlet think twice about letting Miller write any kind of story, let alone one involving WMD? During her time at the NY Times Miller repeatedly "reported" misinformation about Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities; those stories became evidence that could be cited by Bush administration officials to push their case for the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Miller's work was a vital part of the pro-war echo chamber. The NY Times later had to go to the unusual step of writing an editor's note about the shoddy quality of Miller's WMD work, as Slate's Eric Umansky noted (emphasis mine):
After taking its very sweet time, a NYT editor's note acknowledges that some of its WMD reporting was overly credulous and is no longer, em, operative. While archly noting that most of the coverage was an "accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time," the Times acknowledges, "We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged--or failed to emerge."
Not that anyone in particular is at fault: "Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated." Which is true; editors at the Times weren't skeptical enough and didn't give sufficient play to countervailing evidence. But just because many were at fault doesn't mean one wasn't particularly so. Of the 12 flawed stories the Times cites, Judith Miller wrote or co-wrote of 10 of them.
This is perhaps not the person you want to put on the WMD beat, to say the least. Or any beat, for that matter.
Former White House adviser Van Jones and former White House communications director Anita Dunn have been out of the administration and out of the news for months. But that hasn't stopped Glenn Beck from attacking them night after night over the past couple of weeks.
Glenn Beck is a man promising education but peddling ignorance. It's a characteristic of most accomplished propagandists, whose offerings of "truth" are ugly distortions and lies barely covered by a thin veneer of fact. Beck, however, has grown aggressively mendacious in defense of his anti-intellectual and counterfactual retellings of history.
On his show last night, Beck attacked the Politico for quoting a slew of actual historians dismissing Beck's documentary, "Revolutionary Holocaust," and its attempts to link the progressive movement to the worst communist atrocities of the 20th century as inaccurate, ahistorical, and "a complete lie." Beck defended himself by attacking the "eggheads" and attempting to explain why he was right to tie progressives to genocide:
BECK: Now, obviously, a point can be made that totalitarianism starts with the government inserting itself into more and more aspects of our lives, right? But the underlying point here I made in the documentary -- and please, try to keep up, Alan, in our alternative universe -- the right is continually associated with Nazis. That seems perfectly fine with all the egg-heads in this country. Unfortunately, that is the lie that we are exposing. And it's, by the way, again, not the Democrats. It's the progressives on the lefts -- on the left. They have been excusing and defending brutal dictators from the beginning. The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century.
And then also, they also had a problem. They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, IRISH PLAYWRIGHT: Now Signor Mussolini cannot take it off. He is condemned although he is a most amiable man. He is condemned to go through life with that terrible and imposing expression which really does a great deal of injustice to his kindly nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: To his kindly -- he is talking about Mussolini. Shaw gave us a great insight into what the progressives do. He talked about Mussolini's scary look. Right before that part, he said, you know, Mussolini looks like this, a little scary. And can look like that, too, but I can look happy, too. But Mussolini is condemned to always look like that.
He wanted America to know that he could look scary, but he really wasn't. After it became abundantly apparent to the world, the sheer evil that these people were supporting, progressives realized -- as George Bernard Shaw demonstrated on camera -- that they had to change the scary face. Not the policies, the scary face.
There are a couple of things to address here:
"The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century." This is comically false. Rather than going "underground," the progressive movement was ascendant at the turn of the 20th century. The first three presidents elected in the 20th century -- Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson -- were all, to varying degrees, reformers who enacted progressive policies at the national level (Taft being the least ambitious of the three, Roosevelt the most). The progressive movement reached its zenith in 1912 when Roosevelt reemerged on the political scene as the firebrand head of the Progressive Party and finished second in that year's election with 88 electoral votes and 27 percent of the popular vote, the best showing ever by a third party in an American presidential election.
"They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators." George Bernard Shaw was an author, playwright, polemicist, and eugenics-supporting lunatic. He was also an avowed socialist, which, despite Beck's insistence to the contrary, is not the same as a progressive. The American progressive movement actually presented itself as an alternative to socialism. As University of Kansas professor of politics Sidney Milkis wrote:
The Progressive Party's millennial celebration of direct rule of the people was not reactionary, as [socialist leader Eugene] Debs and other social democrats alleged. Yet it beheld a program of reform that sought to preserve the dignity of the democratic individual. Emphasizing the candidate instead of the party, the Progressives deflected attention from class conflict. Seeking to build a welfare state that was sustained by public opinion rather than through a social democratic party, it emphasized individual political action. [Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy, University of Kansas Press, 2009. Page 24]
Needless to say, Shaw's views were not representative of the progressive movement.
Then Beck really went off the rails:
BECK: Last week on radio, we were talking about the Beatles song, "Revolution." I really listened to the words of this and I got to tell you something, the Beatles spells it -- they spell it all out. And it's all about understanding how progressives have been operating.
BECK: The Beatles knew. They knew, opening and defending Mao, or attacking the Constitution would be suicidal. You can't change it. You can't have a revolution. But you can make the Constitution evolve. You can make it a -- what is it progressives said around the turn of the century -- a living document! Evolution. Evolution, not revolution -- slowly, step-by-step.
Beck was serious. He was, in all earnestness, using a rock song as evidence of the perfidy of the American progressive movement. This isn't just wrong, it's a deliberate and malicious thumb to the eye of serious scholars of history. He's telling his audience not just that the people who actually know what they're talking about are wrong, he's telling them they'll be better informed if they listen to the freaking White Album.
The mag's Jonathan Martin claims that after election losses in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, it's clear the Democrats need a new strategy because its "Bush-bashing" has gone "bust."
But that strikes me as odd. I paid very close attention to the N.J. governor's race last November, in which Republican Chris Christie won vs. Jon Corzine, and I heard roughly zero "Bush-bashing" in that entire campaign. (Martin claims there was a single line from a single Corzine add that mentioned Bush by name.)
Same with Mass., I followed that race pretty closely and also never got the sense that Democrat Martha Coakley was building her bid around a "Bush-bashing" strategy.
Politico's proof? Martin notes that Coakley ran an ad "connecting" Brown to Bush. Well yeah, but "connecting" doesn't = Bush-bashing. In fact, here's the Coakley ad that connected Brown to Bush, and yes that single fleeting image was the extent of the Bush appearance.
It seems pretty obvious that spot was a Brown-bashing ad, not a Bush-bashing one.
Politico announces that Bush-bashing has gone bust and Democratic candidates need to move on. Weird part is, they already have.