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  • He's using the Chewbacca defense!

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Media Research Center never should have started a blog. In the 40 years or so that conservatives have been complaining in an organized way about the media, nothing has demonstrated the emptiness of their complaints as effectively as the daily posts at MRC's Newsbusters.

    Here, for example, is Newsbusters managing editor Ken Shepard:

    WaPo Photo Caption Bias in Cuba Embargo Story

    Opting to include a photo to supplement the reporting by Michael Shear and Cecilia Kang in their April 14 front-pager "Obama Lifts Broad Set of Sanctions Against Cuba", Washington Post editors made a caption choice that served to skew the story presentation in a way favorable to those who argue for lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

    "The president's new policies lift limits on Americans sending money to their relatives in struggling Cuba," reads the Post caption below a photograph by AP's Javier Galeano (shown above at right). In the photo, a man and woman are shown pushing a beat-up old car down the street.

    Here's the AP's caption for the photo:

    A couple pushes an old car through a street in Havana, Monday, April 13, 2009. President Barack Obama is allowing Americans to make unlimited trips and money transfers to family members in Cuba to usher in a new era of U.S openness toward the island nation.(AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

    But wait a minute, doesn't Fidel Castro's buddy Hugo Chavez practically give free oil to Cuba? That's right, he does

    Ok. Does anyone have any idea what the "caption bias" in the Washington Post is supposed to be? Any idea at all?

    The structure of the post seems to suggest that Shepard is offering the AP caption as a contrast to the Post caption, but he doesn't explain how they are different, or why the AP version is better. And his "gotcha" revelation that Chavez gives Cuba oil ... what does that have to do with anything? It does not make any sense.

    This is the Chewbacca Defense of media criticism. And it's typical of what we see at Newsbusters every day.

    UPDATE: In the comments, a reader suggests the "bias" Shepard was referring to was the Post's description of Cuba as "struggling." Perhaps, though I expect Shepard would also see "bias" in any news report that failed to describe socialist Cuba as "struggling." And just imagine how he would react if the Washington Post described Cuba as "thriving."

  • Michelle Malkin defends skinheads?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As C&L's Dave Neiwert details, Malkin and company are all up in arms (save it for the tea parties, people!) about a brief report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis that raises a red flag for law enforcement about the possible rise in right-wing extremism.

    The question is, why do Malkin and fellow conservatives care what the government thinks about radical, violent movements on the far right? Or do Malkin and fellow conservatives feel some sort of kinship for that kind of thing?

    From Neiwert:

    The report -- which in fact is perfectly accurate in every jot and tittle -- couldn't be more clear. It carefully delineates that the subject of its report is "rightwing extremists," "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups," "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks," "white supremacists," and similar very real threats described in similar language. Nothing about conservatives. The word never appears in the report.

    Yet here's Malkin:

    By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.

    Again, why does Malkin feel the need to attack a report about "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups"?

    Writes Neiwert, "What's actually happened is this: The DHS accidentally held a mirror up to Michelle Malkin. And she's shrieking at the self-recognition."

    UPDATE: From Glenn Greenwald:

    Conservatives have responded to this [DHS] disclosure as though they're on the train to FEMA camps.

    UPDATE: Sean Hannity on Fox News made the same conclusion Tuesday night that Malkin did: that the DHS report on "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremists groups" was really about conservatives. Hannity wondered if the government would be keeping tabs on people who attended "tea parties." Is Hannity suggesting there will be lots of "white supremacists" and "long wolf extremists" at the tea parties? Because that's who the DHS was flagging.

  • Newsbusters' Sheppard again invokes Waco

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last week, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard wrote a lengthy post about what he is calling the "War Against Conservative Opinion (WACO)" -- a purported government effort to take away the guns and liberty of law-abiding citizens. The Waco tragedy, of course, has been used as a rallying cry for right-wing activists in the past. Timothy McVeigh, for example, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City out of anger over Waco. So it is at least creepy, if not dangerous, for Sheppard to run around shouting "Waco!" over and over, all the while promoting the fiction that the Obama administration has a secret plan to seize guns.

    But today, Sheppard is back at it, referring to a Department of Homeland Security assessment of the growth of right-wing extremist groups as a "scary document" and asking: "Is the Obama administration now fueling the fire of the Left's War Against Conservative Opinion?" Sheppard concludes his post: "Want to talk about the WACO?"

    Glenn Beck's recent stunt in which he doused a guest in gasoline while saying "Maybe I'm alone, but I think it would be just faster if they just shot me in the head. ... President Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?" can also be seen as an invocation of Waco -- 76 people died in the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound, ending the siege.

  • If Rasmussen didn't exist, Power Line would have to invent it

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Rasmussen's daily tracking poll really has become a lifeline for conservative bloggers who cling to the notion that Obama's not really that popular and that Americans don't really approve of him. The far-right outpost Power Line takes great comfort from Rasmussen's latest findings. Here's Power Line breaking the good news to readers:

    Overall, Obama's approval rating of 55% is remarkably steady and not very high for a President still in his first three months in office. The significance of the current numbers is that the small bounce Obama got from his apology tour of Europe was transient.

    Keep in mind that Rasmussen consistently tracks Obama's approval rating well below most other pollsters. And also keep in mind that Rasmussen served as something of a GOP lifeline last fall because it was perhaps the only major polling firm that showed McCain with even the slightest chance at winning down the stretch. But none of that matters to Power Line because Rasmussen says Obama's approval rating is just 55%.

    What vital information does Power Line protect its readers from digesting? Just the recent CNN poll that showed Obama enjoying a 66% approval rating, and the CBS/NYT poll that also pegged Obama's rating at a sky-high 66%. Or that 71% trust Obama to fix the economy, according to Gallup. Or that CBS/NYT found 35% think America is heading in the right direction, which marks a three-year high.

    But for Power Line, none of that matters because Rasmussen says Obama is doing just OK. And if that poll it didn't exist, Power Line would likely invent it.

  • Bad example

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher, today:

    Think of the instant analysis after political debates about who "won." Remember Al Gore's eye roll? What did that have to with the substance of his answers? But did it say somehting about his personality? Rightly or wrongly, these incidents often come to define presidents, and I don't think it is just because of the media coverage.

    Given that polls taken immediately after Gore's debates with Bush found that viewers thought Gore won - and that much of the immediate post-debate media analysis suggested that he had won as well - it's pretty clear that the media's obsessive focus on his sighing and other nonsense is precisely the reason why those incidents came to define him. Viewers reacted positively to Gore.

    It was only after the media endlessly beat him up for sighing and supposedly lying and other non-transgressions that the public saw him as an over-sighing, over-lying phony. If reporters want to claim that the media isn't responsible for the fact that silly things "come to define presidents," they should probably come up with a better example than their treatment of Al Gore.

  • Mark Halperin goes Hollywood

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From Gawker:

    He said Matt Drudge and Karl Rove held the key to the presidency. His last book was embarrassingly wrong. Barack Obama won by studiously ignoring his advice. Someone put Mark Halperin in pictures!

    The item's based on the report from Variety that HBO has optioned Halerpin's 2010 campaign book about the 2008 election. But we can't help amplifying Gawker's tweak about Halperin sort of failing his way up the media food chain.

    Consider this. His 2006 book, co-written by John Harris, was called The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008. The book was pitched as a Beltway insider's guide to the 2008 race and who had the inside track for victory. But guess whose name did not appear--was not referenced once--in the book about the upcoming 2008 election.

    "Barack Obama."

  • RE: Obama, a puppy, and the press

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's the headline of that AP article Eric mentioned earlier, as it appears on the Yahoo! News site:

    PROMISES, PROMISES: Is Obama dog a rescue or not?

    And here's the lede:

    Is Bo a rescued dog or not? Did President Obama keep or break a campaign promise in picking the purebred as the family's new pet?

    A few paragraphs later:

    Barack Obama and his wife Michelle said during the presidential campaign that they had promised their two girls a dog after the election.

    The Obamas repeatedly said they wanted it to be a rescued dog such as one from a shelter.

    Wait: the Obamas said they "wanted" a rescue dog? That sure doesn't sound like a "campaign promise" that they would get a rescue dog.

    A little further down:

    The Humane Society's Pacelle acknowledged that the Obamas never flat-out promised to get a dog from a pound or rescue group. And the society has kind words for Obama on its Web site: "Thanks, Mr. President, for giving a second-chance dog a forever home," it says.

    So, there was no promise to get a rescue dog? The Associated Press just made that up in order to "ask" whether Obama had broken a campaign promise? A campaign promise that was never made?

    Maybe the AP should spend a little less time worrying about who is quoting their work, and a little more time ensuring their work is worth quoting.

  • Your "liberal" media

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Ever wonder why your letter to the New York Times wasn't published? Editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal explains:

    I'll be honest: Because of the nature of our readers, letter writers who defend Republican, conservative or right-wing positions on many topics have a higher shot at being published.

    I'll be honest: That seems to say something about the nature of the New York Times, not the paper's readers.

    And it reminds me of the Appleton Post-Crescent, which drew criticism a few years ago for an editorial that solicited pro-Bush letters to the editor.

  • Norm Coleman is a sore loser. Why won't the press say so, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Leave it to Politico to completely botch things up.

    Yesterday, a three-judge panel in Minnesota officially declared Al Franken the winner in the U.S. Senate race between him and incumbent Norm Coleman, who's currently in month number five of his election appeals. Coleman's now going to appeal the judges' ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and if he loses there, he might take his case to federal court, which could drag things out through for much of the year.

    OK, that's the background. Here's Politico's priceless write-up [emphasis added]:

    Even as the two sides were awaiting Monday's ruling, they were engaged in a message war - with Franken's allies amping up the pressure on Coleman to quit and Republicans blaming Franken for dragging out the process.

    So not only won't Politico finally come out and call Norm Coleman a sore loser for adopting his rope-a-dope legal strategy, but Politico conveyor belts the GOP claim that it's Franken who's dragging the proceedings out.