Currently it's quite confusing, because depending on the week, and depending on the actors involved, the Noise Machine is either adamantly opposed to identity politics (Judge Sonia Sotomayor), and even any discussion of racism in America (prof. Louis Gates/Barack Obama), or the Noise Machine loves identity politics and wishes more people (like Harry Alford) would call out white politicians as racists.
Like I said, it's become quite confusing to watch. But what I have been able to determine from watching the Noise Machine ping-pong back and forth is that when Democrats or liberals raise the uncomfortable issue of race it's bad, bad, bad. But when conservatives or Republicans race the issue of race against a Democrat, it's a very, very good thing.
For those trying to keep score at home, when Sotomayor was being confirmed, conservative pundits were universal in their claim that identity politics, especially when practiced by African-Americans and Hispanics, was abhorrent and should be avoided at all costs. That it was a divisive crutch Democrats used for political gain. And during the confirmation hearings, lots of conservative voices didn't even try to hide ugly racial stereotypes.
But then hold on! Just days later during a House hearing, pro-business conservative flak Harry Alford appeared before Congress on behalf of the GOP to argue against pending energy legislation. When he didn't like innocuous questions being asked by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA.), Alford cried racism (he claimed Boxer was getting all "racial), and guess what? Right-wingers loved it. The Noise Machine rallied around Alford and unveiled its previously invisible concern for racial equality in American politics.
And then when Alford made the rounds on right-wing radio and embellished his encounter with Boxer--when Alford suggested the senator had called him a "little jiggaboo" and "little Negro"--the Noise Machine loved him even more. Finally!, they cheered, somebody who would stand up to the racist ways of American politics!
But apparently that we-shall-overcome feeling evaporated this week in the wake of the news regarding the arrest of Gates, the African-American Harvard professor who claimed he was mistreated by Cambridge, Mass. police; a story Obama discussed at a White House briefing.
Instead of cheering Gates and Obama for raising the uncomfortable question of race (the way the right-wing had cheered pro-business flak Alford and his attack on Boxer), the Noise Machine retreated to its previous Sotomayor stance and lashed out at anyone (except Alford, of course) who dared cry racism. They hated the way Obama (aka "Racist-in-chief") joined Gates' "knee-jerk" protest about inequality in America.
So, just to sum up the right-wing stance, and to help folks keep score moving forward, let's review:
*Sotomayor identity politics = bad
*Alford identity politics = very good
*Gates/Obama identity politics = the worst
From the July 24 Washington Times op-ed of American Spectator founder and editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.:
As I read his enjoinder against making important decisions, the telephone rang. A media booker was at my ear inquiring whether I would accept the invitation of a well-known cable news show to talk about how the Republican Party was being affected by Obama critics who have been harassing Democratic politicians with claims that the president did not have a legitimate birth certificate and was born abroad, perhaps in Botswana or Upper Volta or Lapland. On his provenance, there is no unanimity among these critics.
Well, my doctor's instructions did counsel that I not "make important decisions," but how would that hinder me on a political talk show? As I saw it, I would be in perfect condition to answer the witty ripostes of cable news' talking heads, say Tucker Carlson or Jon Stewart.
I agreed to do the afternoon show so long as I did not have to drive a car or use heavy machinery to get to the studio. Moreover, I had good news for the booker. Choosing me to discuss the president's national origins was an inspired choice. A crack reporter of mine at the American Spectator had investigated the matter when it was a hot rumor during the presidential election and found no empirical evidence in support of the story.
Better yet, the Spectator's reporter found evidence militating against the story. At the time of President Obama's birth in 1961, a notice of the blessed event was published in the major Hawaiian newspaper. I would not rule out dark and treacherous conspiracies by a Democratic president, especially one in cahoots with Rahm Emanuel, but a conspiracy going back almost five decades exceeds even Mr. Emanuel's diablerie.
Thus, I would gladly appear on this news show and present evidence that the questions about the president's place of birth are without merit. The news story is nonsense. Those who dwell on it are distracting us from today's real issues: the Obama administration's bankrupting of the country, its attempt to transform American health care into a rationing system against senior citizens and the chronically ill, its "cap-and-trade" bill guaranteeing high unemployment and higher energy costs in time of recession.
Well, ha-ha-ha. Back comes my disappointed booker after conveying the good news that we would be setting the record straight on the show shortly. Alas, the show's producers did not want me to set the record straight. They had wanted me to defend the false story. But I reminded the booker that I knew the story to be false. In fact, I had provided the show with irrefutable proof that the story is false. Mr. Obama is American-born.
The show proceeded to find a guest who would repeat the false story, either knowingly or out of ignorance -- so much for getting to the truth of issues on television. As for me, I would never knowingly publish anything I knew to be untrue, not in this column or in the American Spectator.
As Media Matters for America has documented, Tyrrell has written several smear books that feature numerous unverified -- and, to the point of absurdity, poorly sourced -- claims about the Clintons. In his October 20, 1997, "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that in the Spectator, "Tyrrell himself has weighed in with two pieces on Bill Clinton's supposed ties to drug-running at the Mena, Ark., airport and another titled 'Is Clinton on Coke?' "
While Kurtz couldn't bring himself to criticize Dobbs, he did devote a section to the ever-pressing topic of Michael Jackson. And a lengthy section to the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, in which he asserted that President Obama's answer to a question about Gates was "a tactical mistake." An odd focus for a "Media Notes" column, but it does have benefit of allowing Kurtz to fill column inches without criticizing CNN, which signs his (other) paycheck.
Because when a Republican somewhere, in some venue, criticizes Obama, it's news.
So Politico's Ben Smith rushed up a post yesterday after Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appeared on Fox News and called Obama's health care reform proposal "a joke":
Pawlenty blasts Obama plan
In the eyes of Politico pros that's news. It's important and it needs to be documented (complete with video!) for all the Beltway to see. The deep irony of course is that, from a journalism perspective, a Republican appearing on Fox News to attack Obama (about anything) is pretty much the opposite of news. It's ordinary, expected and predictable.
But at Politico, which seems to have been created in order to give Republicans a bigger platform at attack Democrats, the dog-bites-man sight of a Republican criticizing a Democrat (on Fox News, no less), has been elevated to a hallmark event and one that must--must!--be reported quickly, quoted at length, and treated as gravely important.
From the July 24 edition of the Fox Nation:
From the July 24 edition of Fox News' FOX & Friends:
Courtesy of Charlie Rose, who invited a round table of Politico players to go on and on about how wonderful and powerful the site is.
I'd just like to state for the record that Politico truly represents the future of journalism; we're all in deep trouble.
And am I the only one who thinks it's odd listening to Politico bosses lecture the Old Media about how it needs to change, and what it needs to do to survive in the New Media world when the truth is Politico's website remains a money loser and is essentially subsidized by its small-circulation print edition?
Via TV Newser (emphasis added):
CNN's Campbell Brown sat down late last week with Julie Menin. And right out of the gate, Brown explained what sets CNN apart from its competitors. "CNN is the only one who's still doing journalism," said Brown, anchor of CNN's 8pmET program. "I don't mean that as a criticism of what the other guys are doing, it's just...we're comparing apples and oranges. Fox has made a choice to go in one direction, MSNBC has made a choice to go in the other direction."
Okay, I'll bite, even though the smear against MSNBC is simplistic and misleading.
If all that is true, then what direction has Lou Dobbs gone off in? Furthermore, is crazy actually a "direction"?
This week we've seen the staff at ESPN and a group of 23 bipartisan members of Congress simultaneously reach the same conclusion: Murdoch's 'news' outlets can do real damage to our culture.
ESPN banned staffers from the New York Post from appearing on any of its programming on Wednesday after the newspaper published photos this week taken from a video showing sideline reporter Erin Andrews nude in a hotel room.
The Post published three images from the blurry video Tuesday.
"While we understand the Post's decision to cover this as a news story, their running photos obtained in such a fashion went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism," ESPN senior vice president of communications Chris LaPlaca said in a statement Wednesday night.
Second, the Congressional group:
As members of Congress and veterans of the United States Armed Forces, it was with incredulity and disgust that we watched Fox News Strategic Analyst Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Ret.) suggest on your airwaves that Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, "abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and just walked off," and stated that, if this is true, "the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills."
It's satisfying to see more and more people realize what Media Matters has been saying for years: Murdoch's brand of 'journalism' is often just dangerous and hateful.
UPDATED: Attorney for ESPN's Erin Andrews unloads on Murdoch-land and the slime that seeps out there:
"The Post's attack on ESPN and Erin is clearly an attempt to draw attention away from its despicable print coverage and that of its sister company Fox News."
Just a note about Dan Rather's lawsuit over his firing from CBS in connection with the so-called Memogate story and how it continues to haunt the network. As the New York Times reported, Rather and his lawyers just won a key victory and were given permission to look at thousands of internal CBS documents.
My guess is that that will translate into more embarrassments for CBS. Because you'll recall that late last year we learned, via Rather's lawsuit, that internal memos indicated that CBS when first facing the right-wing firestorm over its 60 Minutes report about Bush's National Guard years, considered appointing Matt Drudge to sit on an "independent" fact-finding board to investigate the scandal. (A board which Bush refused to answers questions about his Guard service from.)
In fact, we learned that CBS was in full panic mode and was willing to take whatever step necessary to placate the right-wing fanatics frothing about Memogate. The picture painted by the CBS memos and documents already reviewed by Rather suggest a craven news organization that was less interested in uncovering the truth about the disputed memos, and more interested in appeasing Rush Limbaugh. It wanted to "mollify the right," as one internal CBS memo put it.
As I said, my guess is that with Rather and his lawyers about to dive into a new batch of documents, that portrait will only become more vivid.
And here's the kicker for the former Tiffany Network: Rather has vowed to never settle the case out of court.