So much for that experiment.
In August, I gave Bill O'Reilly credit for having the guts (since almost nobody else at FNC will) to put an smart, persuasive, articulate liberal on his show. At the time he invited Fox News contributor, and Columbia University professor, Marc Lamont Hill to discuss the right-wing's unhinged response to Obama's presidency. Hill, as the old saying goes, made mince meat out of O'Reilly.
Well, no more awkward moments for the over-matched O'Reilly, because Hill, one of Fox News' few liberal contributors, has been fired for his political views. Apparently, right-wing purifiers were calling for his head, so Roger Ailes showed Hill the door.
More conservative political correctness run amok. (Quick, somebody alert Rush Limbaugh!)
P.S. Why on earth would Mediaite.com think Fox News' decision to fire Hill was "surprising"? Because Fox News is such a bastion of diversity? Please, the move is utterly predictable as the RNC's cable outlet continues to narrow its sanctioned talking point between far-right and really far-right.
Should we start the Geraldo countdown now?
UPDATED: News Hounds nicely captures the stench of hypocrisy that surrounds Hill's firing:
Despite repeated whining on Fox News that Rush Limbaugh was punished for his political views, the "fair and balanced" network seems to have done the same thing to one of its own.
NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd sneaks in right before the deadline with the runaway winner for "Worst Example of Purported Liberal Media Bias of the Week." His latest blockbuster scoop is headlined: MSNBC Promo Narrator Also Does Work for Pro-ObamaCare Group. Take it away, Ken:
But it's not just the on-camera talent that has all the fun cheerleading liberal policies. It seems a promotional ad narrator for MSNBC also does voiceover work for a pro-ObamaCare group, Health Care for America Now (HCAN).
I noticed the HCAN ad at 11:20 a.m. EDT today and worked up a mashup featuring excerpts of the HCAN ad and a promo for tonight's MSNBC programming.
You can watch for yourself, but a quick note for Shepherd: when your video hinges on the premise of people being disturbed by a narrator saying things like "What's MSNBC talking about tonight?" and "MSNBC: The Place for Politics," you probably don't have much of an argument. Though in Shepherd's defense, I could definitely detect the narrator subliminally encouraging a public option in the way he pronounced "tonight."
Helpfully, Shepherd does most of the work demolishing the entire point of his post with his final paragraph:
NBC Universal's Alana Russo informed NewsBusters via e-mail that MSNBC's announcers are freelancers, "not in-house staff employees." Asked if there were any "contractual limitations" barring those freelancers from "doing political ads while under contract with MSNBC," Russo answered that "[t]hey do not have exclusive contracts with MSNBC."
I have spent the better part of an hour trying to determine how Shepherd thought this was worth posting after receiving a perfectly reasonable response from MSNBC. The narrator is a freelancer. Let's hope Shepherd doesn't hear the same narrator in a promo for Dan Brown's latest DC-based thriller -- he'll be connecting those dots for weeks.
Here at County Fair, we have made it a bit of a cottage industry mocking the blog commonly seen as our counterpart on the right, and with good reason. By comparison, let's have a look at what an actual conflict of interest surrounding health care reform coverage at a major news outlet looks like, courtesy of fellow County Fair blogger Matt Gertz:
Media Matters for America has obtained evidence that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos' political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plan's (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans. CNN has a responsibility to insure that Castellanos' obvious conflict of interest does not tarnish their future coverage of the health care debate.
One of these things is not like the other.
Beck (!) says McCarthy was a "nightmare" because he "made cries of communism a joke"
Given Glenn Beck's one-man crusade to root out communism in the Obama administration, a crusade which most recently led him to spend a whole show attacking Anita Dunn because she once cited Mao has a "favorite political philosopher," and which targeted Van Jones, and which led him to claim that "the president has an agenda that is radical, revolutionary, and in some cases, Marxist," and which most amusingly has led him to look for signs of Marxism and fascism in the artwork of Rockefeller Center (which also houses Fox News)...
Given this long history fomenting fear about communism, one might expect Beck to idolize or romanticize trailblazer Joseph McCarthy.
But in his 2003 book The Real America, Beck writes:
One of the worst things that ever happened to America was Joseph McCarthy-and not for the reasons that everybody else thinks that Joseph McCarthy was a nightmare. I give you that Joseph McCarthy was an out-and-out nightmare for all the reasons everybody thinks, but it goes much deeper than that.
Joseph McCarthy made cries of communism a joke. He makes the cries of socialism a joke. Nowadays when you say, "Um, you know, So-and-So is a Socialist," everybody laughs. It's like calling someone a witch, or a pirate. It just doesn't have any meaning anymore. "Oh no, he's a Socialist! So what?"
In the same way, Al Sharpton makes cries of racism a joke.
Keep it up, Al. You really want to hurt the cause of the African-Americans? Keep crying racism, because nobody will pay attention to you.
When they hear it, it will become a joke, and they will laugh. Quite honestly, Al, the way they're laughing at your hair now.
So Joseph McCarthy had his witch-hunt in the 1950s, and he tried to find all the Socialists, all the commies, all the pinkos, and you know what? Some of them really existed. But the lasting repercussion of this is that nobody is afraid of socialism, nobody thinks communism is a bad thing. (pp. 114-115)
Beck is accusing McCarthy of making the "cries" of communism and socialism a "joke."
Moreover, Beck says that the "lasting repercussion" of McCarthy's "witch-hunt" is that "nobody is afraid of socialism, nobody thinks communism is a bad thing."
Ugh. Here's the Post headline, about how Obama's supposedly moving way to slow on judicial nominations:
Obama Criticized as Too Cautious, Slow on Judicial Posts
And the lede:
President Obama has not made significant progress in his plan to infuse federal courts with a new cadre of judges, and liberal activists are beginning to blame his administration for moving too tentatively on what they consider a key priority.
Interesting, right? Liberal activists are really upset with the Obama White House because it's moving too slowly in filling vacancies on the federal bench. Well, that would be interesting if the Post could find any truth to the premise. It can't, but that doesn't stop Micheal Fletcher from typing it up anyway.
In truth, so few judges have been confirmed because, as the Post concedes, Republicans are placing holds on the nominations and doing everything they can to block the confirmation process. To most readers, that would seem to be the story. But the Post wants to spotlight those supposed angry "liberal activists" who are annoyed with Obama re: judges. The problem is, the Post can't find any to quote.
In the entire article, the Post does not include a single quote from any "liberal activists" who "are beginning to blame," or who have "criticized," the White House for "moving too tentatively" of judges, or anything remotely like that. The Post just invented that news angle, even though it couldn't substantiate it.
Here's The New Republic's Jonathan Chait:
In my field, we have something called the National Magazine Awards. Magazine writers tend to be both obsessed with who wins and convinced the process is a pathetic joke. This isn't just sour grapes, either. The last time The New Republic won a National Magazine Award, it was for publishing Betsy McCaughey's infamous anti-Clintoncare screed "No Exit," which is probably the worst article in the history of TNR. It's as if the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Timothy McVeigh.
Which, of course, raises the question of why TNR hasn't given back the award -- and why its editor claims the magazine has "recanted" and "apologized" for "No Exit," even though it has done nothing of the kind.
In recent days, Glenn Beck has turned his neo-McCarthyite crusade against communism and "czars" against Anita Dunn after Dunn said of Fox News: "As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave." Beck devoted most of his October 15 Fox News show to claiming that Dunn "worships" and "idolizes" "her hero" Mao Zedong. Dunn had once commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her "favorite political philosophers."
Of course, Beck excels at turning molehills into mountains of misinformation. If Beck were to actually turn his specious spotlight on conservatives who have cited or praised influential communist figures, he would have at least a week's worth of shows. That list includes fellow Fox News friend Newt Gingrich; former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed; Stephen Shadegg, adviser and "alter ego" of Sen. Barry Goldwater (Beck has repeatedly called on Republicans to "get back to the conservative roots of Barry Goldwater"); Peter Germanis, who served as a senior policy analyst in the Reagan administration; and even President Bush, who encouraged Karl Rove to read a Mao biography and whose Social Security reform strategy was reportedly influenced by Lenin.
Beck's crack research staff could fill in the details and no doubt find even more tenuous communist connections among conservatives. But there's one conservative that would provide Beck with endless material if his anti-communist witch hunt was actually anything more than a shtick to smear the Obama administration and play to his conservative base.
In Blinded by the Right, Media Matters founder David Brock wrote of the Americans for Tax Reform president:
There was nothing traditionally conservative in Grover's approach. As I conformed myself to the movement, I was being inculcated into a radical cult that bore none of the positive attributes of classical conservatism-a sense of limits, fair play, Tory civility, and respect for individual freedom. On the contrary, Grover admired the iron dedication of Lenin, whose dictum "Probe with bayonets, looking for weakness" he often quoted, and whose majestic portrait hung in Grover's Washington living room. Grover kept a pet boa constrictor, named after the turn-of-the-century anarchist Lysander Spooner. He fed the snake mice, all of them named David Bonior, the outspoken liberal House whip.
It's not hard to imagine the weeks of mock outrage that would ensue if Beck -- or Hannity -- discovered that a prominent progressive had -- or had ever had -- a portrait of Lenin hanging in his Washington living room.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov! In his living room!
But not only did Norquist entertain guests under a portrait of the first head of state of the Soviet Union, he also studied the writings of Antonio Gramsci, the most famous Italian Communist, best known for his concept of cultural hegemony.
Despite his promise as an academic, Gramsci became active in the Socialist Party and launched a career as a fierce pamphleteer, making himself a voice to be reckoned with throughout Italian political circles. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, Gramsci sided with the Communist minority within the Socialist Party and built up the Italian Communist Party at the dawn of the Italian fascist movement. After serving as Italy's delegate in Moscow to the communist International, he was elected general secretary of the Communist Party in Italy. Soon thereafter, Gramsci was arrested by the government in Rome and spent ten years in prison producing his most influential revolutionary writings, in the form of notebooks and letters, before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1937. Two decades later, his writings were studied carefully by the radical left throughout the world, particularly by leaders of revolutionary movements in the Third World -- and by the anti-Communist Grover Norquist.
Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony was sprung out of his quest to understand why the working classes weren't more willing to rise up and overthrow the ruling classes. Gramsci posited that culture must be investigated to see what norms contributed to reinforcing (or dismantling) of the larger social structure.
Given his populist framing of his anti-tax group and its efforts, Norquist seems to understand what Gramsci was getting at, albeit with a much different goal.
And given Beck's populist framing of his own partisan attacks against progressives and progressive causes, he also seems to grasp what Gramsci was getting at.
(Uh-oh. Better not let Beck find out.)
From Greg Sargent's The Plum Line blog:
One of Castellanos' firms, as you know, was the ad buyer behind a major insurance industry TV campaign against health care reform. His firm also has raked in nearly $500,000 from the Republican National Committee, which enlisted him to craft anti-reform talking points.
Here's one more interesting data point: Another one of his firms, Purple Strategies, also has a contract with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most determined and well-funded foes of Obama's governing agenda.
J.P. Fielder, the Chamber's spokesperson, confirms that Castellanos' firm is doing the advertising on the Chamber's ongoing multi-million-dollar campaign hailing the virtues of the free-market system - which has the specific goals of derailing Obama's climate change and health care reform initiatives.
To be clear, there's nothing necessarily amiss here, and I wanted to take this occasion to clarify something. The reason we're digging into Castellanos is not because of Castellanos per se, but because his case tells a larger story about how Washington works. You hear a lot about the revolving door between government and lobbying. But there's another, less-remarked-on revolving door: One between consulting and commentary.
Just a few short weeks ago, Glenn Beck was voicing his concern about the potential effects Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermonizing might be having on President Obama's policy toward Israel. Remember, Beck believes that the president is a racist who hates white people, so don't be surprised that Rev. Wright is still a hot topic of discussion on his program. Anyway, Beck asked former United Nations ambassador John Bolton: "Do you think it's possible to sit in the church with somebody who is as anti-Semitic as Jeremiah Wright is and not come away with an anti-Semitic view?" Beck went on to allow that Obama's Israel policy "may not be anti-Semitic," but the implication was clear -- Obama's thinking was influenced by Wright, and is therefore suspect. Beck clearly thinks the views and opinions of a person's mentors, if that's the proper word, are tremendously important when understanding the view and opinions of that person. So perhaps we should be taking a closer look at Beck's own "mentors."
Beck's affinity for the writings and theology of ultra-conservative activist W. Cleon Skousen is well-documented. Skousen's book, The 5,000-Year Leap, is at the center of Beck's 9-12 Project, and Beck called the book "divinely inspired" in the foreword he wrote for the 30th anniversary edition. But much of what Skousen wrote has been forgotten or never progressed far beyond the obscure fringes that Skousen himself inhabited. We've already explored Skousen's unique take on "the story of slavery in America," wherein slave owners were "the worst victims" of slavery, white children "envy the freedom" of slave children, and life in the antebellum South was a "nightmare" of fear for "white civilization." But a mind as fertile as Skousen's couldn't be limited simply to sympathizing with the owners of human chattel.
Take, for instance, Skousen's 1970 book, The Naked Capitalist. It's ostensibly a review of Dr. Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope, and in it Skousen declares that Quigley is an "insider" in a grand "power complex" that will "eventually attain total global control." Skousen gets right to the meat of things on Page 6:
The real value of Tragedy and Hope is not so much as a "history of the world in our time" (as its subtitle suggests), but rather as a bold and boastful admission by Dr. Quigley that there actually exists a relatively small but powerful group which has succeeded in acquiring a choke-hold on the affairs of practically the entire human race.
This is what is known as New World Order conspiracy theorism -- the idea that the affairs of the entire globe are secretly controlled by a small group of extremely wealthy (and usually Jewish, though Skousen didn't seem to buy into that) cabal of individuals who are either Freemasons or Illuminati or Stonecutters or whatever. Of course, Skousen throws his own flourishes in, linking everything to the great communist conspiracy and the apocalypse as predicted by Revelations. Skousen continued on Page 6: "Anyone familiar with the writings of John's Apocalypse might have suspected that modern history would eventually contain the account of a gigantic complex of political and economic power which would cover the while earth." Put bluntly, the whole thing is stonking crazy.
But The Naked Capitalist is also completely dishonest. At least, that's the opinion of Dr. Carroll Quigley, who would be something of an authority on this issue. As Salon's Alexander Zaitchik noted in his handy-dandy Skousen round-up, a 1971 issue of Dialogue: The Journal of Mormon Thought contained Quigley's analysis of The Naked Capitalist, and, as Zaitchik wrote, his "judgment was not kind." Quigley accused Skousen of "inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary." According to Zaitchik, Quigley actually intended Tragedy and Hope to be a critique of far-right conspiracy cranks like Skousen. But as is the case with most conspiracy theorists, Skousen twisted the evidence before him into something that approximated his own worldview, and then proudly declared his own vindication.
If this sounds familiar, it should -- this is pretty much exactly what Beck does. It's the sort of fevered narcissism that compels Beck to cast himself as the embattled voice for truth who braves death to reluctantly do the job of complacent or complicit journalists who just won't connect the dots between the fascist artwork in Rockefeller Center and the president's speech to schoolchildren. If there's a difference between Skousen and Beck, it's that Beck at least sometimes acknowledges that he sounds like a lunatic as he tumbles down various rabbit holes.
Books like The Making of America and The Naked Capitalist elegantly demonstrate why Skousen never achieved much notoriety as a scholar -- his ideas were too whacked out even for hardcore conservatives. But he's enjoying a bit of a resurgence now as the gravitational center of the Glenn Beck universe.