In today's Washington Post , Anne Kornblut writes:
Facing a near-daily barrage of attacks from conservative opponents, White House officials are engaged in an internal debate over how hard to hit back, even as they have grown increasingly aggressive in countering allegations they deem to be absurd.
Note the wording there – these allegations are ones that White House officials "deem to be absurd," not necessarily ones that the Post does. Therein lies a problem – as long as the media reports on allegations as if they are credible, those allegations with gain traction.
So what are those allegations that Kornblut is afraid to declare "absurd"? She mentions several: the baseless notion that Obama was planting to use an address to schoolchildren to indoctrinate them; the unhinged birther conspiracy theory; the accusation that Obama wants to kill people's grandparents using "death panels"; the idea that Obama has an "enemies list"; and the view that health reform is intended to makes reparations for slavery. It's the White House that thinks these claims are absurd; the Post would never say so.
Indeed, elsewhere in the paper, the Post is busy spreading the next attack on Obama they dare not deem absurd: apparently, conservatives think Obama has too many "czars." Oh, sure, as the Post points out, many of those "czars" are Senate confirmed and their positions predated Obama's administration. And as the Post notes, President Bush "had 36 czar positions filled by 46 people during his eight years as president." But for some reason, the paper finds this a credible enough charge to allow numerous conservatives – who didn't seem to have a problem with the Bush adminsitration's "czars" -- to slam Obama for his "antidemocratic" actions. I guess this is just another allegation that "White House officials… deem to be absurd."
It's so depressing the watch 'serious' Beltway pundits, like the Wall StreetJournal's Gerald Seib, go out of their way to whitewash the right-wing's Obama hatred that's been on display all summer long. It's depressing to not only watch Seib play dumb, on a sweeping scale, about the dangerous and radical undercurrents at play, but to watch him actually prop up the GOP mini-mobs as something more important, genuine and serious than unhinged partisans.
Here's Seib, writing under the headline "Populist Vein Resurfaces in Protests":
These Tea Party Patriots and like-minded brethren represent the latest resurfacing of a vein that has always been there and that simply goes below ground from time to time...The last big appearance came when Ross Perot tapped into it in the 1990s. Mr. Perot, who ran for the presidency in 1992, when he got 19% of the vote, and in 1996, didn't create the movement then, any more than Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck has created it now. He simply gave voice to it.
Maybe my memory's bad, but did Perot supporters in 1996 spend an entire season forming wide-eyed mini-mobs in order to make sure that Americans could not discuss the day's important topics at town hall forums? Did they show up at rallies with loaded handguns? Did they routinely refer to the President of the United States as Adolf Hitler and parade around with Swastika posters? Did they form mobs around members of Congress and follow them to their cars in parking lots.
Seib must be recalling a different Perot movement from the 1990s, because I sure don't remember one that was built around unvarnished hatred, the way today's tea party movement is. Either that, or Seib is wildly downplaying what's really going on today, which, of course, is what I think is really going on.
And how about this clunker, as the columnist marries tea party hysteria with Perot's mild-mannered third party run:
These aren't partisan movements.
Read that one again for a good laugh. The 70,000 people who gathered in D.C. over the weekend and took their rally marching orders from Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, who worship at the feet of Glenn Beck, and most of whom could not physically contain their naked hatred for Obama and his "socialist/" "communist" agenda, are definitely part of a non-partisan movement.
Whatever you say Gerald. But honestly, if you whitewash the tea parties any more strenuously, all the color's going to come right off them.
No doubt responding to criticism from the likes of Glenn Beck that they were missing out on a "huge" story, The New York Times published an article today on the series of videos targeting ACORN produced by conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe and TownHall.com columnist Hannah Giles. Titled "Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe," the article manages to soft-peddle to an incredible extent the conservative movement's – and the conservative media's – ridiculous, over-the-top, absurd obsession with the group. The Times' Scott Shane writes:
For months during last year's presidential race, conservatives sought to tar the Obama campaign with accusations of voter fraud and other transgressions by the national community organizing group Acorn, which had done some work for the campaign.
It was Acorn's election activities that drew opponents' attention last year, including registration cards filled out by Acorn workers in the name of Mickey Mouse and other imaginary voters. Republicans highlighted the fact that the Obama campaign had paid more than $800,000 to an Acorn affiliate for get-out-the-vote efforts
As we noted at the time, the obsession with ACORN's voter registration activities was wide of the mark, with media figures almost always ignoring 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Indeed, Fox's Megyn Kelly actually mocked ACORN's accurate statement that Florida law required them to turn in all voter registration cards they received, even if they were filled out by "Mickey Mouse." And as Jamison noted, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Florida has that law – while names may seem obviously fake to the likes of Kelly, that doesn't mean they are – just ask the 32 people named "Mickey Mouse" listed in the White Pages nationwide, including two in Florida.
But contrary to the Times' suggestion, it's a lot more than the group's "election activities" that have drawn "opponents' attention" – the group is one of the conservative noise machine's favorite bogeymen, and has been blamed for, well, pretty much everything that has ever happened, up to and including the financial crisis. They claimed ACORN stole the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota, and invented billions of dollars in funds supposedly earmarked for the group in the stimulus bill. These people even found a way to tie the group in to Obama's comments on the arrest of Henry Gates.
Then there's the conservative media's constant attempts to smear progressives with the ACORN brush. Obama was deemed unworthy to be president because he once represented the group in a lawsuit -- but the Department of Justice joined with ACORN as a plaintiff in the suit, which sought to force the State of Illinois to implement a federal voter registration law. The conservative media slammed David Hamilton, Obama's nominee for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of his purported "ties" to ACORN – ties which reportedly consisted of "raising contributions door-to-door for the advocacy group ACORN for one month after college" in 1979. And, of course, there's Beck's attempts to smear AmeriCorps, AARP, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, PRLDEF, and SEIU by linking them to ACORN.
If the Times wants to declare Beck their new assignment editor and give this story oxygen, that's their right. But they should be aware – and make their readers aware – that the conservative fixation over ACORN is much deeper than a concern with the group's "election activities."
Yesterday, Glenn Beck cited an unnamed university estimating the crowd size at the 9/12 protest as "1.7 million." Considering Beck and other conservatives have so far relied on invented ABC reports, repurposed quotes about Obama's inauguration, and "I heard someone say," we assumed Beck was just grasping at straws.
Turns out we were wrong. From his radio program this morning:
What "University of Indiana" study is Beck talking about? We have no clue. And clearly, neither does Beck. Here's Beck, appearing on Fox News' On the Record on Monday night:
BECK: I think that it doesn't matter if any newspaper published how many people were there. We had, where was it, University of Illinois, I think, did a -- you know, a spatial count and looked at the photos and said I think it was 1.7 million people there.
University Of Illinois, Indiana University, hey, what's the difference? There does appear to be a crowd-size expert at the University of Illinois named Clark McPhail, who was quoted extensively about the size of the crowd at Obama's inauguration, but a Nexis and Google search reveals that McPhail hasn't yet said anything about the 9/12 crowds. As we learned yesterday, the conservative media thinks it is totally reasonable to take quotes about the inauguration and apply them to the 9/12 march. However, over the last 48 hours, Beck has progressed from University of Illinois, to a complete memory wipe, to today referencing some purported Indiana University study twice. We'll try to keep up and have a look at what Beck might be talking about.
The closest thing to an Indiana University study appears to be this paper, "The Real Number of Protesters at the 9/12 Washington D.C. March," by the esteemed Zac Moilanen. Who exactly is Zac Moilanen? Noted Statistician? Professor Emeritus of Political Science?
Close. According to his "Cadet Profile" as posted on the web page for the university's ROTC program, Moilanen is an undergrad majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Um, OK. Maybe he is a crowd-size scholar? After all, according to Beck, he even did "the computer thing!"
If by "the computer thing," Beck means this paper was written on one, then yes, that certainly appears to be the case. If he meant "advanced computer modeling," then, uh, no. You can read the in-depth analysis yourself, but let me just take you to the exciting conclusion:
In all precise studies of crowds, it is important to subtract "a hundred thousand or two" for old people being distracted by statues, etc.
Some of the references cited in this bulletproof academic study: Michelle Malkin, WorldNetDaily, Google Maps, YouTube, an article titled "President Hussein's 2012 Resignation: A historical prediction" from Free Republic, and a message board on a website called "Godlike Productions."
At this point, I'm starting to wonder if Beck is just throwing out red herrings to keep me occupied.
Charles Johnson, in response to conservatives repurposing a quote about the inauguration to claim it was about the 9/12 protests wrote: "This is so pathetic I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
Reading Investor's Business Daily editorials can have something of a cathartic effect. After doggedly researching and fact-checking the dubiously nuanced claims of more sophisticated misinformers, it can be sometimes fun to take a (brief) dip into their troubled fantasy land where even the most fevered conspiracy theories can leap from the pages of FreeRepublic and get their brief, shining moment in the sun. Consider that IBD has implausibly claimed that the House health care bill would outlaw private insurance, absurdly claimed that Colombian terrorists had an inside line to President Obama's campaign, and outright racistly claimed that Obama would put the interests of his "tribe" ahead of national interests.
But, it turns out that IBD has a polling outfit that complements the partisan hackery on display in their editorials. According to the latest IBD/TIPP survey, "[t]wo of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted." This finding fits neatly with the conservative argument against health care reform, and runs contrary to just about every other poll of doctors, which show overwhelming support among physicians for health care reform.
As polling guru Nate Silver explains, the IBD poll is garbage:
[T]he Investors' Business Daily poll purporting to show widespread opposition to health care reform among doctors is simply not credible. There are five reasons why:
1. The survey was conducted by mail, which is unusual. The only other mail-based poll that I'm aware of is that conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, which was associated with an average error of about 7 percentage points -- the highest of any pollster that we tested.
2. At least one of the questions is blatantly biased: "Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it will cost less money and th quality of care will be better?". Holy run-on-sentence, Batman? A pollster who asks a question like this one is not intending to be objective.
3. As we learned during the Presidntial campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. I mean, literally none. For example, I don't trust IBD/TIPP to have competently selected anything resembling a random panel, which is harder to do than you'd think.
4. They say, somewhat ambiguously: "Responses are still coming in." This is also highly unorthodox. Professional pollsters generally do not report results before the survey period is compete.
5. There is virtually no disclosure about methodology. For example, IBD doesn't bother to define the term "practicing physician", which could mean almost anything. Nor do they explain how their randomization procedure worked, provide the entire question battery, or anything like that.
Silver concludes: "There are pollsters out there that have an agenda but are highly competent, and there are pollsters that are nonpartisan but not particularly skilled. Rarely, however, do you find the whole package: that special pollster which is both biased and inept. IBD/TIPP is one of the few exceptions."
Fox News' Glenn Beck recently aired a video indicating that an ACORN employee shot and killed her husband, without first bothering to verify whether the husband is, in fact, dead. He isn't. The video is, in other words, a fraud. But that didn't stop Beck from calling it evidence of "murder" and perhaps even "premeditated murder." Of a person who is still alive.
Here's a bunch of Fox News "reporters" who are outraged about the murder. Which didn't happen. Because the guy is still alive:
So, given Fox's promotion of this hoax-video ... how did Fox react to the allegedly-forged documents used in a CBS news report about George W. Bush's apparent failure to fulfill his commitments to the Texas Air National Guard?
Here's Hannity, after Rather was replaced as anchor of CBS Evening News:
HANNITY: I'm not as forgiving as you are here, Bernie [Goldberg], and I'll tell you why. This case of forged documents, this was 50 days outside of a political election. If it weren't for brave people like Ben Barnes' daughter and Colonel Killian's wife and Colonel Killian's son, you know something? This could have had an impact, a significant impact, may have even resulted in a different outcome in this election.
This -- this is a disgrace, what went on here, that they ignored all of the exculpatory evidence, Bernie. And the fact is, crimes were even committed, if you believe -- you know, according to reports, forging documents and transmitting them, that's a federal crime, a state crime and a county crime in Texas.
First of all, I want to point out, he's not gone. He's still at "60 Minutes," at least for the time being. So he hasn't gone away here. Secondly...
HANNITY: An article in The New York Observer today revealed some new information about the CBS investigation into the "Memogate" scandal. According to the story, freelance producer Michael Smith, he taped many of his conversations with CBS investigators and executives in the weeks after the scandal broke.
Smith told The Observer that the tapes of his conversations proved that nobody at CBS, quote, "seemed interested in the truth."
You used the word "bias." You used the word "arrogant." You know, based on this story that he broke here, not caring about getting to the truth of the investigation, maybe we can add the words, "elitist," "political," "liberal," "unethical," even? [Fox News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, 3/9/05]
And Fox News Correspondent Rick Leventhal:
LEVENTHAL: Unlike his colleague, Tom Brokaw, who retired with glowing tributes late last year, Rather leaves under the dark clouds of his flawed "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on President Bush's National Guard service that aired last September.
It was based on documents most likely forged. He tried to defend the piece and its questionable source materials, but later, apologized on air. One of his co-workers was fired, three others were asked to resign; Rather and his bosses were not. [3/5/09]
And Fox anchor John Gibson:
GIBSON: Ellis, can you explain why Dan Rather, with all the experience we've been talking about and Rick talked about, would commit the basic errors that went on in Memogate, if there was not a bias behind it?
HENICAN: No. Because he screwed up. He made a mistake as a reporter and got embarrassed. It had so little to do with ideology and so much to do with bad reporting. People in this business make that mistake.
GIBSON: Rich Noyes, Dan Rather obviously made a mistake, but Ellis doesn't seem to be willing to admit that the case you're making, that the reason Rather made the mistake was he was disposed to disliking Bush and he would bend his own rules.
HENICAN: You have no idea whether that's why he made the mistake. That's silly for both of you to say.
GIBSON: Well, I do know, but why?
HENICAN: You have no evidence of that at all! You're against the guy.
GIBSON: His career is the evidence!
HENICAN: No! The guy made a mistake! You have no idea what's in his heart! That's silly!
GIBSON: Rich, isn't that evidence?
GIBSON: Ellis, you don't think that what was going on in this Memogate story, whether Rather was behind it, or it was really Mary Mapes, but Rather went along with, was bring down this President? Rather called himself a big-game hunter! [3/5/09]
Any chance we'll see this level of outrage directed at Glenn Beck for unquestioningly airing an apparently fraudulent tape in order to portray an ACORN employee as a murderer? Beck has, after all, been pretty clear that he is trying to bring ACORN down.
UPDATE: Sean Hannity & Bernie Goldberg, November 23, 2004:
HANNITY: You're way ahead of the curve every time these stories come out.But you know, I met Dan Rather during the convention. He couldn't have been nicer. On a personal level he was a very nice man. And I mean that sincerely. But let's just go down a path for a second here. Imagine, 50 days out of an election, somebody gave me documents, little old radio and TV talk show host Sean Hannity, that turned out to be forged documents about John Kerry, and similarly, they had connections to the Bush campaign. Would I be here tonight talking to you? GOLDBERG: Well, you might be here or you might not be here, but every liberal in America would be all over you and all over Fox.And liberals are, if not defending Dan Rather, they're saying things like, "Well, let's not judge him by that," and things like that. Listen, if Dan Rather got documents from his, quote, "unimpeachable source," and that unimpeachable source was somebody who came from the right instead of the left and was out to bring down John Kerry and his campaign instead of George Bush and his campaign, there's no way Dan would have ever proceeded with that story.
HANNITY: You're missing the point here, though. This is 50 days out of an election. It could be a turning point in the election. And if these are forged documents, that is a crime. That is a corrupting of the news and a betrayal of trust on a level that I don't think we've seen in our lifetime.
HANNITY: I was just thinking to myself, you tell me if I'm wrong here, if Republicans had forged documents or had gotten forged documents and gave it to a news organization, and they turned out to be false, wouldn't this be a much bigger story in the mainstream media?
From the September 14 Investor's Business Dailycolumn:
The crisis had its roots in innocent-sounding changes made to the Community Redevelopment Act during the Clinton administration. Those changes not only encouraged banks to lend to credit-unworthy customers, they basically forced them to do so. Those that didn't meet CRA standards could be denied the right to expand their lending - or even to merge with another company.
The CRA used Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises that funded the Democrats' massive homeownership scheme, to boost homeownership among the poor.
Banks would be able to make loans to questionable borrowers, repackage the loans in bundles and resell them to Fannie and Freddie and investors around the globe. Fannie and Freddie got the green light to raise virtually unlimited amounts of money to buy up the iffy mortgages from the banks.
Any bank that didn't take part could find itself in big trouble.
As we wrote about this time last year: "With all the old rules out the window, Fannie and Freddie ... eventually controlled 90% of the secondary market for mortgages. Their total portfolio of loans topped $5.4 trillion - half of all U.S. mortgage lending. They borrowed $1.5 trillion from U.S. capital markets with - wink, wink - an 'implicit' government guarantee of the debts."
The Fannie-Freddie explosion in mortgage lending intensified when the Fed cut interest rates to a then-record-low 1% after 9/11, fearing an economic meltdown. By 2007, subprime mortgage lending hit $1 trillion -- up 2,757% from 1994.
From 2000 to 2008, Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to rein in Fannie and Freddie. But Democrats -- led by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd -- spurned effective reforms. Instead, we got crisis. And unbelievably, the system is still in place today.
Interesting, because the conservative media in recent years has shown an almost allergic reaction to journalism and actual reporting, so I'm curious what its recent claims to fame are.
Politico rolls out the greatest hits:
From birthers to tea parties to town halls and ACORN, the scandal-plagued anti-poverty group — not to mention President Obama's speech last week to school children and the background of former White House aide Van Jones — issues initially dismissed or missed entirely by the national media have burst, if only fleetingly, onto the national agenda after relentless coverage on Fox News, talk radio and in the blogosphere.
Van Jones and ACORN? Fine, those are news stories. But according to Politico, the conservative media have scored "scoops" by relentlessly pressing the phony conspiracy theories that the President of United States is not eligible to serve, and that he was trying to indoctrinate school children with a "socialist" agenda by urging them to excel in the classroom. Also, by they hit a home run by helping turning public town hall forums into hate-fests complete with mini-mob members who showed up with loaded pistols and scores more who paraded around Swastika posters.
That, according to Politico, represents key instances in which the conservative media have been setting the national agenda. The fake birther joke, the fake school address joke and the unhinged mini-mobs stand among its key "scoops" this summer.
Good to know.
It's funny. If liberals had pulled off schemes like that during the Bush years, the Beltway press would have labeled them cranks. But when conservatives do it, Politico chalks the stunts up as "scoops."
Can't anybody on the right play this game. Just once we'd actually love to read a coherent, fact-based critique of the press from the right. We'd actually welcome it. Instead, we're stuck with lame attempts like this one by Media Research Center's Dan Gainor.
He's hitting the same notes all the other far-right pundits are: The media's ignoring the (supposedly) blockbuster ACORN story:
The small scandal showing an embarrassing video of Baltimore ACORN staffers looking like they were giving tax advice on how to set up a brothel, is now national news. -- This story has everything you could ever want – corruption, sleazy actions at tax-funded organizations, firings, government ties, sex, hookers. It is a network news director's dream. Imagine the ratings!
Only almost no one is covering it.
Really? According to Nexis/Lexis, these are mainstream media outlets that, prior to the publication of Gainor's piece, had covered the ACORN story out of Baltimore in the last week: Baltimore Sun, New York Post, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Grand Rapids Press, Kansas City Star, Newsday, Newark Star-Ledger, Washington Post, Washington Times, CNN.com, Washingtonpost.com.
But aside from that, almost nobody is covering it.
Later, Gainor focuses on the network news coverage of the ACORN story, or the lack of [emphasis added]:
And yet. And yet it's still been ignored by the network news. Nothing on ABC, CBS or NBC. The only thing any one of the three broadcast networks has done appeared in a blog post by ABC's Jake Tapper. It's hardly worth noting except to show that the networks know about what's going on. They just don't care to report it. Only FOX News has bothered to report on the controversy.
See the obvious apples-to-oranges connection? Gainor claims the Big Three nets didn't' cover ACORN; only Fox News did. Of course, Fox News isn't a network and Fox News has about 21 more hours of news programming to fill each day because it's a 24/7 cable news outlet. Yet for some reason Gainor ignores what other 24/7 cable news outlets have done regarding the ACORN story. Why does Gainor play dumb? Because if he reveals the truth, his silly critique collapses.
For the record, here are the days from within the last week, and prior to Gainor's piece, when CNN covered the ACORN story. (I repeated the days on which CNN offered up multiple reports):
Our blog section features rapid response fact-checks of conservative misinformation, links to media criticism from around the web, commentary, analysis and breaking news from Media Matters' senior fellows, investigative team, researchers and other staff.
Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly misinformed her audience by claiming that that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not issued a travel ban over Ukraine, in order to bash President Obama over Israel. In fact, the FAA has banned commercial travel over Ukraine since April.