There are several disturbing things found in a recent email thread that Newsweek published, in which top staffers debated the definition of a terrorist. Specifically, the question they tried to hash out among themselves was whether last week's Austin suicide pilot, Joseph Stack, was a terrorist the same way the Christmas Day bomber was. And why the latter was treated as a much, much bigger deal.
The general (and yes, disturbing) newsroom consensus seemed to be that Stark, a white American, wasn't really quite a terrorist, even though he flew his plane into a federal building in an apparent attempt to kill as many people as possible, and he did it to make an anti-IRS political statement.
Hmm, if a Middle Eastern immigrant with a similar unhinged, anti-government beef had taken the same lethal steps, would Newsweek be so reluctant to label that an act of terror? I'm doubtful. (Glenn Greenwald has a thorough dissection of that point, here.)
But was really struck me as astonishing was that not one person on the Newsweek staff mentioned, or even seemed to be aware of the fact, that the reason the Christmas bomber became a big news deal and Austin's Stack did not is because the GOP Noise Machine made the Christmas Day bomber a big deal (and the press eagerly followed), and the GOP Noise Machine had every incentive to play down the anti-government suicide bombing in Austin (and the press eagerly followed.).
In other words, Newsweek editors and reporters engaged in a debate about public perception and news coverage, yet remain oblivious to the forces that actually drive the coverage of this issue, and so many Beltway issues: the GOP Nose Machine.
Because, let's face it, when it says jump, the media say how high?
The drill has become so routine (GOP outrage = news), I don't think reporters and editors even recognize it anymore, which is why Newsweek staffers scratch their head and wonder why a political news story the GOP loved got big news coverage (i.e. foreign terrorist), vs. a political news story the GOP hated, which did not (domestic terrorist).
UPDATED: The closest any Newsweek staffer came to addressing this issue was editor Devin Gordon [emphasis added]:
One thing that could've stretched out this Austin Wacko story out quite a bit longer is if the mainstream media had been bolder about connecting it to the larger anti-tax political phenomenon in this country today: the Tea Party. But most of us weren't willing to go there. Why? Because we are perceived as being dismissive and condescending toward the movement — OK, we *are* dismissive and condescending toward the movement. In short, we tend to treat them like wackos and we are gun-shy about going the full Monty and suggesting they are this close to being *violent* wackos. The FBI is skittish about that blurry line, and so is the media. Better to leave it alone and move onto Tiger Woods.
Interesting. The mainstream media could have connected Austin's anti-government suicide bomber with the anti-government Tea Party movement. But the Tea Party wouldn't have liked that, so journalists didn't do it. They "weren't willing to go there."
Behold your liberal media.
My colleague Eric Boehlert and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog have been all over the New York Times' failure to correct its erroneous reporting that James O'Keefe was dressed in an outlandish pimp costume while meeting with ACORN community organizers. I just want to jump in for a second to spell something out.
New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt has told Friedman that, going forward, "I am recommending to Times editors that they avoid language that says or suggests that O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp when he captured the ACORN employees on camera."
Obviously, Hoyt would have no reason to make such a recommendation if the Times had any proof that O'Keefe was dressed in his over-the-top pimp costume while meeting with the ACORN employees.
But Hoyt also told Friedman "I still don't see that a correction is in order, because that would require conclusive evidence that The Times was wrong, which I haven't seen."
Therefore, it seems the New York Times requires a higher standard of proof for retracting claims than for making them.
Washington Post reporter Ben Pershing gives the Tea Party movement and Ron Paul too much credit:
Ben Pershing: So far Ron Paul has given no indication that he wants to form a third party. If he did, it would have a pretty obvious name -- the Libertarian Party. Unlike the Tea Party groups, which combine elements from a variety of different ideologies (and also have plenty of disagreements amongst themselves), Paul has a long-developed and clear Libertarian philosophy. But he hasn't done anything to suggest he wants to form a third party rather than just try to move the GOP in his direction. Note that's what his son, Rand Paul, is doing in the Kentucky Senate primary.
First, I'm not sure how many different ideologies are actually represented by "the Tea Party groups." There's conservatism, and some libertarianism. What else? Liberalism? No, not really. (Worth keeping in mind: Tea Party folks are very, very Republican.) Socialism? Anarchism?
Second: Ron Paul's "clear Libertarian philosophy" doesn't include abortion. He opposes abortion rights. The Libertarian Party (like Ayn Rand, among other libertarian heros) says "we believe that government should be kept out of the matter." And Paul calls the Defense of Marriage Act "proper," while the Libertarian Party platform says "Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships." So, basically, Paul's "clear Libertarian philosophy" is that he opposes government intervention in people's lives -- except when he supports it.
Newsbuster Jack Coleman rushes to the defense of the John Birch Society:
Upset that members of the media sought "anything potentially embarrassing to fling at conservatives" (the digging wouldn't be hard if this were true) in its coverage of CPAC's annual gathering in Washington last week, Newsbusters' Candance Moore is up with a post attempting to make the case that the press ignored the "left-wing tone of Netroots Nation in 2009."
Moore's examples of loony-left-wing panels the media failed to cover is quite absurd:
The archive section of the official site of Netroots Nation revealed shocking material largely ignored by the national media. Below is a list of some of the ridiculous discussions that took place:
- Tearing down the wall between church and state to advance "faith based" progressive agendas.
- Stacking SCOTUS with progressive judges to circumvent the Constitution.
- Why Democrats are not pro-abortion enough.
- A panel sponsored by the United Nations Foundation to criticize America for taking the world's food supply.
- Using the EPA to bypass Congress.
- Coaching teens on how to educate their parents.
- Fighting "science denial" on the right.
Did you hear about any of those topics last year from the mainstream media.
All of the above subjects were covered in official panel discussions, not just obscure information booths from fringe attendees. Readers are encouraged to watch the archive footage to see how rationally such things were being discussed.
Wow, how did I not hear about these discussions last year? And when did Netroots Nation start letting Jason Mattera and the XPAC brigade name its panels with such colorfully nutty right-wing rhetoric?
It would be funny if it weren't so sad and intellectually dishonest. Moore's framing of these discussions don't appear to bear any resemblance to what actually transpired because -- I assume from reading her post -- she didn't actually attend Netroots Nation.
Mark Leon Goldberg points out the way Moore portrays one panel in particular - a panel that he actually moderated:
For the record, I moderated the panel sponsored by the United Nations Foundation. Needless to say, the panel did not "criticize America for taking the world's food supply" (whatever that means). Rather, the panel was called Global Solutions for Global Poverty and was a discussion of ways the United States and the world can come together to fight extreme global poverty. At no point did any panelist criticize American for taking the world's food supply. Candance Moore seems to have made that up out of thin air.
Making things up "out of thin air" is nothing new for the folks at Newsbusters and this one misses the mark entirely like many of its other sloppy attacks.
According to WorldNetDaily -- your one-stop shop for birther conspiracies -- a group of birthers is planning a "Birth Certificate March on Washington." The event -- no date is set yet -- is being organized by Philip Berg, who has filed more than one birth certificate lawsuit against President Obama and once sued President George W. Bush, claiming he was complicit in the September 11 attacks.
This is, of course, not the first time that a wild conspiracy theorist has organized a march on Washington. The 9/12 March on Washington and the tea parties were promoted by a guy who has said that the federal government may create a new currency and back it with land seized through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is ignoring daily "cyber attacks by China" as "payment to them," and is proposing a health care database "so everything that you do is going into a computer database for the federal government."
Don't look for any support from Glenn Beck for this march, however. He may even downplay the size of the march rather than employing his usual trick of wildly inflating the turnout numbers.
In recent weeks, Beck has alienated the birther movement for mocking them and WorldNetDaily has attacked Beck in several posts, most recently for saying "he's going green by using energy-saving products" and for chatting with George Clooney. Seriously.
Of course, WorldNetDaily and Beck traffic many of the same falsehoods and conspiracy theories, so it's doubtful the spat will go on that long.
Then again, the birthers clearly cannot be reasoned with and never let anything go.
And they're bringing their crazy to D.C.
Multiple times since the ACORN video story broke last September, The New York Times erroneously reported (and/or suggested) that James O'Keefe was decked out in his outlandish pimp costume while he met with ACORN's community organizers.
That's not true. The pimp costume was a prop used by O'Keefe, Andrew Breitbart, and Hannah Giles (along with their friends at Fox News) to purposefully confuse people about what really went on inside the ACORN offices. The Times, like lots of news orgs, got duped and pushed that false storyline.
The Times did it in September and then again in January, following the news that O'Keefe had been arrested in New Orleans. To date, there is no evidence O'Keefe ever wore his pimp outfit inside ACORN workplaces. Indeed, the three ACORN ringleaders now concede that fact.
So why won't the Times acknowledge that fact and correct its previous articles? And is it just me, or does it sometimes seem like the Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, acts like his job is to figure out why the newspaper shouldn't post corrections? Especially when the requests come from the left.
Blogger Brad Friedman took it upon himself to seek answers from the Times about its ACORN coverage. Go read his entire post, and especially his extended back-and-forth emails with Hoyt. It's a true eye-opener.
Bottom line: Hoyt now agrees that, contrary to the Times' earlier reporting, there's no proof O'Keefe ever wore the pimp getup while meeting with ACORN employees. But -- and boy, this is a big "but" -- Hoyt doesn't think the Times needs to post corrections.
UPDATED: Here's a key question for the Times newsroom: Will the daily cover the news that a key talking point of the ACORN sting tapes (the pimp costume) has been revealed as a hoax?
UPDATED: Please recall that this is same Clark Hoyt who devoted an entire column last year in order to scold the Times news team for not reacting fast enough to the all-important ACORN story. The failure was so severe that the Times assigned a staffer to monitor opinion media so the daily would never again be caught so flat footed when a hugely important story broke from the right-wing blogosphere.
But now, when we discover that ACORN story wasn't entirely what it appeared, Hoyt begs off.
It turns out that two of the most inflammatory op-ed columns in recent memory were not unsolicited pieces that happened to impress editors at the Washington Post and New York Times; they were, instead, commissioned pieces that those newspapers actively solicited.
A few weeks ago, the Post ran an almost unbelievably bad op-ed in which Gerard Alexander asserted that liberals are more condescending to conservatives than conservatives are to liberals. Alexander later revealed that the Post approached him about the column, raising the question of whether the Post is asking around to see if anyone wants to write a column about conservatives being a bunch of ignorant jerks. I kind of doubt it.
And now, The Hillman Foundation's Charles Kaiser has gotten to the bottom of a mystery surrounding a New York Times op-ed by the heretofore unknown Lara M. Dadkhah, whose column in favor of increased civilian casualties in Afghanistan identified her only as "an intelligence analyst." It turns out the Times searched far and wide to find Dadkhah. A Times editor explained to Kaiser:
We found Ms. Dadkhah from work she did in Small Wars Journal, work that was part of her Ph.D. dissertation at Georgetown. Ms. Dadkhah only recently took a job at Booz Allen. We tend not to mention the names of companies -- as it can run the risk of seeming self-promotional.
As Salon's Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, that second part doesn't fly -- the Times frequently mentions "the names of companies" in the bio lines on op-ed columns. And, as Greenwald notes, the whole thing is rather bizarre:
To summarize: the NYT Op-Ed Page decided, for whatever reasons, that it wanted to find someone to urge more civilian deaths in Afghanistan. The person it found to do that is someone about whom virtually nothing was known, yet works for one of the largest, most sprawling and influential defense firms in the nation, a virtual arm of the Pentagon, but they decided there was no reason to have its readers know that.
It's hard to imagine an editor thinking "Hey, you know what we need? A column calling liberals condescending jerks" or "Maybe we can find some obscure analyst at a defense contractor who is willing to argue in favor of killing more civilians, then fail to give readers any idea who she is." I mean, I guess I wouldn't be surprised if it happened at the New York Post or one of Andrew Breitbart's sites. But apparently that's exactly what goes on at the Washington Post and New York Times, too.
TPMMuckraker's Zachary Roth reported that Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams, a frequent guest on cable news, "derided Barack Obama as 'our half white, racist president' in an email to colleagues." Williams "sent an email in September -- obtained by TPMmuckraker -- to other leaders of the group, in which he appeared to be responding to charges of racism against himself." From Williams' email:
CNN went over more than seven thousand articles on my site; likely they also listened to the shows archived there too. No doubt they did a Lexis Nexis on me and found thirty years of work by and about me. The best that they could do as a result was string together three quotes, out of context, and throw in a false allegation of me calling Obama a "Nazi".
I was in the streets marching for civil rights while asshole southern sheriffs were swinging nail studded baseball bats at black's heads, and stood between black kids and even more fucked up northern assholes were throwing rocks and gas bombs at school buses in my hometown during forced busing for deseg.
Two things you can always count on: I will defend my record on race to no one (sic), under any circumstances and, I will call out any racist, any time without regard to who they are ... and that includes our half white, racist president.
While Williams claims that CNN threw "in a false allegation of me calling Obama a 'Nazi,'" Williams' website lists "President-elect Hussein Soetoro" under "21st Century Nazis." A screenshot of his website, accessed on February 23:
Media Matters for America also documented that Williams has advanced the discredited smear that Obama lacks a valid birth certificate; linked Obama's health care reform to Nazi experiments; called Obama the "Racist in Chief"; and repeatedly called his political opponents "faggot."