It's that time of the year again. Progressives from around the country are gathering this week in Pittsburgh, PA for the annual Netroots Nation conference. Scratching your head? Here's a bit of information about the conference:
Netroots Nation amplifies progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate. Through our annual convention and a series of regional salons held throughout the year, we strengthen our community, inspire action and serve as an incubator for ideas that challenge the status quo and ultimately affect change in the public sphere.
The fourth annual gathering of the Netroots (formerly known as the YearlyKos Convention) will be held August 13–16 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Netroots Nation 2009 will include panels led by national and international experts; a progressive film screening series; practical training sessions and workshops; and the most concentrated gathering of progressive bloggers to date.
Visit Our Booth
We'll be there in full force. If you plan on attending be sure to stop by our booth to meet some Media Matters staff and pick up a special Fox News stress ball, "Rush Limbaugh Doesn't Speak For Me" bumper sticker or a limited edition Media Matters 5th anniversary t-shirts.
Join in the Discussion
Media Matters staff will be participating in two great panel discussions at Netroots Nation. We'd love to see you there:
Democracy without Newspapers
Thursday, August 13, 4:30-5:45pm
David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Room 304/305
Is the death of newspapers a threat to democracy? Or is the loss of major news outlets actually the best thing that ever happened to the democratic process? From blogging networks to investigative journalism funders, an increase in new models for news seems to bode well for bottom up action and civic engagement. In this panel we will discuss and create new ideas for how participatory online media can invigorate both journalism and the political process.
Moderated By: NYC.is Founder Susannah Vila
Panelists Include: PressThink.org's Jay Rosen, MediaRepublic.org's Persephone Miel, The Nation's Ari Melber, BlackPerspective.net's Yobachi Boswell, Media Matters' Karl Frisch and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Michael A. Fuoco.
Root of Right Wing Media's Hatred of President Obama
Thursday, August 13, 4:30-5:45pm
David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Room 303
The recent spat of right wing spurred disruptions during town halls have featured unhinged anger over issues such as Obama's birth certificate and his plans for health care reform. It is all part of a concerted, coordinated effort to derail the Obama presidency in its first year – the same exact tactic that was used by conservatives to undermine the Clinton Presidency starting in 1993. The media must expose the true motivations, origins, and coordination of the birther and teabagger movements, along with similar extreme right-wing political groups, whose activism has been relentlessly promoted and encouraged by the conservative echo chamber.
Moderated By: Media Matters Action Network's Ari Rabin-Havt
Panelists Include: NDN's Simon Rosenberg, ColorOfChange.org's James Rucker and America's Voice's Paco Fabian.
Follow the Fun (Win Prizes)
Even if you won't be attending you can follow the fun on Twitter. Use the hashtag #NN09 to follow everyone tweeting from Netroots Nation. You can also follow me @KarlFrisch and Media Matters @mmfa for the latest from Pittsburgh and your chance to win special prizers (if you're at the conference)!
Other Fun in Pittsburgh
If you'll be attending and are looking for other great things to do (places to eat) be sure to check out this great PDF.
ColorOfChange.org's James Rucker reports that in response to the group's campaign, GEICO has decided it no longer feels comfortable financing fearmongering paranoia and has pulled its ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program. This makes five advertisers who have distanced themselves from Beck since he declared that President Obama is "a racist" who harbors a "deep-seated hatred for white people."
From ColorofChange.org's press release:
"On Tuesday, August 4, GEICO instructed its ad buying service to redistribute its inventory of rotational spots on FOX-TV to their other network programs, exclusive of the Glenn Beck program," said a spokesperson for GEICO Corporate Communications in an email to ColorOfChange.org. "As of August 4, GEICO no longer runs any paid advertising spots during Mr. Beck's program."
"We applaud GEICO and all of the other companies who have stepped forward to pull their ads from Glenn Beck," said James Rucker, executive director of ColorOfChange.org. "Beck's rhetoric is dangerous to the fabric of our democracy, and we are heartened that so many big companies feel the same way. We won't stop here — we're going to continue our fight to see that as many of Beck's advertisers pull their support as possible."
The question is quickly becoming, why do Beck's other advertisers still feel comfortable with his inflammatory, hateful rhetoric?
Writing over at The Atlantic, Fallows bemoans the state of the health care 'debate', and especially the GOP misinformation about ""death committees," socialized medicine, end of innovation, "keep the government out of my Medicare," etc."
Fallows is depressed. He writes:
I have to say that it is striking to come back -- from the world of controlled media and not-always-accurate "official truth" in China -- and see the world's most mature democracy, informed by the world's dominant media system, at a time of perceived economic crisis and under brand new political leadership, getting tied up by manufactured misinformation. No matter what party you belong to, you can't think this is a sign of health for the Republic.
Really, Fallows seems surprised that the debate surrounding a big public policy issue is "getting tied up by manufactured misinformation" launched by the right?
That strikes me as being wildly naive and my suggestion to Fallows would be to go spend a few hours reading the archives over at The Daily Howler. Purposeful conservative misinformation, which then often gets echoed and spread around by the (lazy) mainstream press, has been the defining trait our political dialog for at least the last fifteen years. Yet media elites (like Fallows) still act surprised, in part because lots of media elites have spent the last 15 years playing dumb about the trend and playing dumb about the damage being done to our democracy.
Honestly, what was Fallow expecting, that the right-wing press was going to promote a robust, fact-based discussion about the issues, and that the mainstream press was going to drill down deep into the facts? I suppose that yes, most sane observers would bemoan what's become of our health care 'debate' today. But the ones who act shocked are the ones who surprise me the most.
UPDATED: Paul Krugman recently made the following point. It wasn't in reference to Fallows, but it could have been [emphasis added]:
So now that the same people [Republicans] are in opposition, nobody should be surprised that they are willing to say anything to block efforts to actually deal with problems. Anyone who is surprised hasn't been paying attention since, oh, 1993.
The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes lead off their article today by writing:
The White House on Monday started a new Web site to fight questionable but potentially damaging charges that President Obama's proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system would inevitably lead to "socialized medicine," "rationed care" and even forced euthanasia for the elderly.
But in introducing the Web site, White House officials were tacitly acknowledging a difficult reality: they are suddenly at risk of losing control of the public debate over a signature issue for Mr. Obama and are now playing defense in a way they have not since last year's campaign.
That's one way to interpret the White House's decision to roll out their new website debunking health care smears. Here's another: The White House is doing it because they realize that the media is unwilling or unable to call those smears false, instead – just to pull an example out of thin air – referring to misleading-to-ridiculous claims that Democratic proposals "would inevitably lead to 'socialized medicine,' 'rationed care' and even forced euthanasia for the elderly" as "questionable but potentially damaging charges."
What makes this particular case even more absurd is that just yesterday, the Times published "A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform." Unfortunately, Rutenberg and Calmes don't seem to have read it.
If they had, they might have written that claims that health care reform would lead to "socialized medicine" "seem overblown" because "[m]ajor versions of the legislation all rely heavily on a continuation of private health plans" and the CBO has found that under the House bill, 3 million more people would have employer-sponsored insurance in 2016 than would be expected under current law. They also might have called the "euthanasia" claims "unfounded" or noted that the AARP says they're "flat-out lies."
But instead, we get "questionable but potentially damaging." The claims might be true; they might not be? Who can say? What we can say is that repeating them without debunking them – as we just did in our article in The New York Times -- could hurt reform's chances.
As Jamison noted in June:
Following up on my post this morning about combating misinformation by eliminating the incentives for lying, another stumbling block is that a lot of reporters and news organizations seem to think it is adequate to tell the truth once.
That is, if a politician runs around saying something that isn't true -- like that she said "thanks but no thanks" to "bridge to nowhere" funding -- many news organizations will debunk the false claim once. But then they'll go right on quoting the false claim when it is made again and again, without bothering to point out that it is false. And when challenged on this, they'll point out that they did debunk it, three weeks ago.
That isn't good enough, for reasons that should be incredibly obvious. It isn't good enough to tell the truth once.
The Times told the truth yesterday. Today, they don't seem to know what the truth is. Unfortunately for them, their job is to tell the truth every day.
That's great. But there's an obvious next step for news organizations that have reached the (unavoidable) conclusion that McCaughey isn't telling her the truth: Stop taking her seriously. Immediately and forever. It has been clear for 15 years that Betsy McCaughey does not tell the truth about health care.
There is no reason whatsoever to ever give any weight to anything she says. She isn't an "expert," unless the only qualification for being an expert is repeatedly being wrong and dishonest. There is no reason whatsoever to ever invite her to appear on your television program, no reason to ever quote her in your news report (unless you're doing so to illustrate and debunk the lies people are telling.)
If the Post or ABC or any of the other news organizations that have concluded McCaughey isn't telling the truth go back to quoting her as though she is anything other than an untrustworthy fraud, it'll tell us more about them than about health care.
Just wanted to highlight what Jamison noted in terms of Kurtz and the WashPost playing dumb about Limbaugh's outrageous Nazi rhetoric. My latest column is on this exact topic, so I thought I'd add two points.
First, the Washington Post also gave Glenn Beck a pass when he recently announced the President of the United States had a "deep seated hatred of white people" and was a flat-out "racist." At the Post, which obsesses over the intersection of media and politics, the jaw-dropping attack by Fox News' superstar host wasn't considered to be newsworthy.
So for those keeping score at home, two of the most popular and powerful conservative voices in America (Limbaugh and Beck) have recently called out Obama as a Nazi racist. But sorry, at the Washington Post that's just not news. Nothing to see here people. Just keeping moving along. The right-wing media are not the story.
Second, and this is just sort of a side note, but how loopy was it that when a reader specifically asked Kurtz during an online forum why, as the newspaper's media critic, he hadn't written one word about Limbaugh's Nazi rhetoric, Kurtz's response was "I don't know."
How can he not know why he does or does not cover a particular story?
Last night, AC 360 featured a report by CNN's Gary Tuchman from a health care town hall meeting held that day by Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), who faced a large, hostile crowd for three hours in North Arlington, NJ. After the meeting, Tuchman gathered a group of presumably representative attendees together and asked them why they thought all the "yelling and screaming" was necessary:
You'll notice that during the interview, CNN displays a graphic that should have thrown up a red flag for Tuchman: One of the town hall protestors – who says the "yelling and screaming" is necessary because "If you were about to be hit by a bus and didn't see it coming would you like me to yell and get your attention?" – is captioned "Valley Stream, NY."
Valley Stream is in Nassau County, between 52 minutes and two and a half hours away from North Arlington, NJ, depending on the traffic (and trust me, there's always traffic).
And yet, Tuchman had no questions for the man about how he happened to end up in a town meeting for a different congressman in a different state. Because it's not like there's a wide-ranging campaign by national conservative organizations to pack Democratic town halls with protestors who oppose health care reform.
On Sunday, I noted a new Gallup poll that provides further evidence that the May Gallup poll showing a significant spike in the percentage of people who self-identify as "pro-life" was an outlier. (To be clear, it was always obvious from looking at the poll that it was an outlier and should not be taken particularly seriously. The new Gallup poll is just the icing on the cake.)
Today, Steve Benen rounds up some of the other reaction to the new Gallup poll, and takes a look at which of the two polls got more media attention. You'll have to check out Benen's post for the results, but here's a hint: the "liberal" media has a strong track record of privileging opposition to abortion.
Say you're Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, and you're looking for a column that will help people understand the health care debate. You could chose one that makes clear that health care reform does not involve, as Sarah Palin mendaciously claims, "death panels" that convene to kill children and the elderly. But that would be boring! So you run this, instead:
The issue here is not that these citizens consider Obama untrustworthy -- though they do. The issue, rather, is that they recognize that the stated goals and structure of a policy may not fully capture its full range of outcomes in practice. This is why these citizens, including professionally briefed participants such as Sarah Palin, can continue to maintain, in the face of a barrage of insistences to the contrary, that the reforms will (1) result in rationing and (2) establish "death panels."
Check out that framing: people who believe health care reform will "establish 'death panels'" are "professionally briefed," while those who point out that no such thing will happen and no such thing is contained in any proposed legislation are merely offering a "barrage of insistences." Way to stack the deck in favor of the crazy and false position.
More from Danielle Allen's op-ed:
These activists do not claim that the proposed reforms include policies whose explicit purpose is to ration, nor do the more careful among them claim that the policies will establish panels to help people decide when to die. They are not arguing about the semantic content of the policies; that is, they are not arguing about the meaning of the words that are actually in the relevant drafts of bills. Instead, they are considering, as the pragmatist philosopher William James put it, "what conceivable effects of a practical kind the [policy] may involve -- what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare."
In asking lawmakers to consider not merely the goals of their policies but also the experiential meaning of concrete realities that those policies may bring, they have a point. One can't answer them by saying: "These policies won't ration; there will be no death panels." If these reforms do either of these things, they will do so as a matter of unintended consequences.
Nonsense. Utter, complete, contemptible nonsense. Plausible unintended consequences should surely be considered. But implausible, never-going-to-happen, absurd unintended consequences need not be. Sure, the government could theoretically eventually create "death panels" that order three-year-olds and grandparents put to death. And a race of super-human alien-dinosaur hybrids from the planet Zolog could theoretically become angered by the adoption of a public plan and blow up Earth in a fit of rage.
Hmmm. If I can stretch that last sentence into an 800 word defense of irresponsible fear-mongering, Fred Hiatt will probably put it in Thursday's Washington Post ...
UPDATE: Speaking of enabling the spread of crazy nonsense, Josh Marshall catches the New York Times calling the false claims about "death panels" "questionable but potentially damaging charges."
Oh, the claims are "questionable," are they? That's a relief! I thought the "death panels" were a certainty. Sure is great the New York Times is here to set the record straight and make clear that they are only a possibility!