Dole's speech, as is usually the case, wandered over various subjects -- presidential humor, his own career, Social Security reform, and Monica Lewinski, who was Dole's neighbor for a time in the Watergate complex in the 1990s.
"If I'd had little wiretap there, I could've been president," Dole said, adding: "I never had..... a conversation with that lady."
Now, here's what's interesting about that: Bob Dole knows that during the 1996 campaign, the Washington Post spiked an article about Bob Dole having an affair. And shortly after the Post spiked that article -- an article Dole aides considered a "mortal threat" to his campaign -- Bob Dole was running around the country, accusing the media of being biased against him and in favor of Clinton.
Given that Dole knew the Post had just spiked a story about his own affair, it's hard to believe he actually thought the media was biased against him. He was just doing what conservatives do: Reflexively and dishonestly attack the media.
The fact that Dole now says that he'd have won in 1996 if he had evidence of Clinton's affair further illustrates how insincere his criticism of the media was. After all, you have to be pretty sure the media is on your side to think that if only you had evidence of your opponent's affair, you'd have won -- all while knowing that the media covered up your own affair.
Goldberg's in classic apologist mode today in USA Today, as he waves away anyone on the left or right who has a problem with Beck. Goldberg's exercise is particular dishonest because Goldberg never--ever!--spells out what Beck has done and said this year that would upset both liberals and serious conservatives.
That's the golden rule of apologists: never let readers know why your guy is under attack. And Goldberg knows his role well. Rather than directly quote a single controversial thing Beck has said this year, or explain why conservative David Brooks labeled Beck a "loon" this weekend, Goldberg simply paints Beck as a "goofy" "populist." (How dumb does Goldberg think readers are? Very, very dumb.)
Goldberg is especially sure to stay away from the "racist" controversy. You remember, when Beck made national headlines and kicked off a advertising boycott that, to date, has cost his show nearly 80 advertisers, when he called Obama a "racist" who had a hatred of white people and white culture?
If you gonna talk about Beck, that's pretty much the defining even of 2009 for him. But in Goldberg's loving hands, the "racist" slur never took place, which means Goldberg doesn't have to defend it. Again. You'll recall, when Beck first called out the President of the United States as a "racist," Goldberg rushed to Beck's side and insisted the hate host had nothing to apologize for. Goldberg claimed that if Beck thought it was true that Obama hated white people, than he ought to say it on national TV.
That's the intellectual level Goldberg plays on. I guess that's why he's such a Glenn Beck fan.
UPDATED: No joke, Goldberg argues that Beck is just like Jon Stewart. Ugh, Jonah, we get it, you want to be invited back on Glenn's show. Can you stop with the fawning already?
Remember when right-wingers like Glenn Beck went nuts about Barack Obama telling schoolchildren to work hard and get an education, claiming he was "indoctrinating" them and suggesting he was trying to create a modern-day Hitler Youth? Remember how that criticism came despite the fact that Republican presidents like George H.W. Bush spoke to schoolchildren?
Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher thinks that's an example of hypocrisy by Democrats:
Downtown DC: I'm appalled at the reports of some Republicans cheering that "Obama lost" when Chicago wasn't chosen by the IOC. I'm tempted to ask, "Why do you hate America?" Can you put this incident in perspective -- have Democrats been this petty and vindictive; is this part of a coarsening of public life lately?
Michael A. Fletcher: Hard to compare the level of pettiness, but I remember learning during the flap over President Obama's address to school children that Democrats in Congress had put President George H.W. Bush through the ringer for making a similar address to students. So it goes both ways. I think that both sides in the political debate look for every opportunity to criticize the other side, and that's what you saw with Obama's Olympic pitch. I can imagine that if he decided not to go to Copenhagen and Chicago had lost out, he'd be criticized for that. As you point out, that is the tone of our politics these days.
In 1991, Democrats criticized President George H. W. Bush for using taxpayer money to produce a speech to schoolchildren, arguing that it was an improper use of public funds for political purposes. Asked whether the footage would make a good campaign commercial, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater acknowledged "We certainly would use any tape of the president, doing anything, anywhere in the world at any time if it was to his political benefit," lending some support to the Democrats' claims.
In 2009, Conservatives attacked Barack Obama for speaking to schoolchildren, claiming he was "indoctrinating" them and making comparisons to Nazi Germany.
Those two criticisms are not remotely similar. I happen to think the criticism from Democrats in 1999 was petty (and the GAO ultimately concluded the expenditure was not inappropriate.) But it was nothing like the vile and disgusting comments from Glenn Beck and his allies a few weeks ago. It's like comparing apples and giraffes.
To look at those two events and conclude, as Michael Fletcher does, that they are comparable -- and to suggest it is the Democrats who are hypocritical and insincere in their actions -- is bizarre and indefensible.
On October 7, The Politico published an "Ideas" piece by Rep. John Linder (R-GA) that compared President Obama's administration to "Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy." From Linder's Politico piece:
Progressivism and its progeny all believed in the fairness and wisdom of decisions made by the state - often at the expense of the individual, who, it was believed, made selfish decisions. All demanded that the state have an increased role in raising children. Adolf Hitler scoffed at those who remained opposed to him, saying he already had control of their children.
All believed in the minimum wage, state control of private property for the public good, unionization and environmentalism. And they believed in eugenics to purify the gene pool.
It is now fair to wonder whether we are returning to a belief that only a powerful central government can fix all of our problems. Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review that President Barack Obama is governing as though the United States were a university and he its president. Governing by czars fits that example. A diversity czar, environment czar, pay czar, science czar, manufacturing czar and, of course, health czar could deal with the "whole" of an issue rather than looking at it piece by piece. This is not unlike the women's studies, black studies, diversity studies, environmental studies and other obsequious studies in most academic settings.
And with the Obama administration, just as in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy and Wilson's America, the leaders of major corporations are falling in line. Whether it is climate change, executive pay, automobile manufacturing or bank buying, CEOs step right up and wait for the tax benefits to surely follow their pandering. And the CEOs stood mute while bondholders saw their investments given to the unions.
The principal sin in politics is overreaching. Americans have in the past repeatedly voted for freedom and the supremacy of the individual over the state. It will happen again.
Can Jeffrey Lord at American Spectator count? It's a serious inquiry. Because this week he seems incapable of counting past 15.
Why is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so quiet about Kevin Jennings? Jennings is in the news because he is the Obama administration's Safe Schools czar, in bureaucratese the assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools inside the Department of Education. And because he has now admitted that when, as a teacher, he was sought out by a 15-year-old boy asking for advice about an affair with an older adult male, Jennings suggested wearing a condom.
The boy was not 15 years old. Period. He was 16, which was the legal age of consent in Massachusetts, where the incident took place. I noted, quite clearly, that everybody who follows the story now knows the boy was 16, not 15. Yet days later, fact-free zones of the GOP Noise Machine, including The American Spectator, continue to cling to the age of 15 because it allows them to float even more false claims that Jennings condoned statutory rape of a student.
Days after the boy himself confirmed he was 16 years old at the time of the incident, the American Spectator reported he was 15. And when called on it, refused to correct the purposeful error. What other proof do you need that the fringe rag doesn't care about even brushing up against the truth now and then?
Now in his response, Lord's howling that--a-ha!--at the time Jennings thought the boy was 15, so that's why he used that age in his post. Of course, that's not what Lord originally wrote. He didn't report that Jennings "was sought out by a boy who he thought was 15 years old asking for advice." Lord wrote that the boy was 15. False, and everybody knows it. He was 16.
Again, what further proof do you need that Lord and his fellow loons are trapped in their own hermetically-sealed world when they refuse to acknowledge even the simplest facts, like somebody's age. The boy in the Jennings story confirmed he was 16 years, but the American Spectator still writes up a story announcing, as fact, that he was 15.
Like I said in the original post, we're through the looking glass with this stuff.
Glenn Greenwald recently provided the following analysis of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
Increasingly, there is great difficulty in understanding not only Beck's political orientation but, even more so, the movement that has sprung up around him... Some of this confusion is attributable to the fact that Beck himself doesn't really appear to have any actual, identifiable political beliefs; he just mutates into whatever is likely to draw the most attention for himself and whatever satisfies his emotional cravings of the moment.
Does Beck have any core beliefs? It's hard to tell -- hard to know if even he really knows the answer. Beck has described himself as a rodeo clown, which would suggest that he's just in it for the laughs. But he has also disagreed with that depiction. "I've joked that I'm a rodeo clown," he said on October 5. "But you know what? I take that back. I no longer am a rodeo clown. I am a dad, and quite frankly, I'm a little pissed off right now."
This is the kind of cognitive dissonance that routinely defines Beck's program. It isn't hard to find numerous examples of his Fox News show broadcasting completely antithetical messages, sometimes on the same day, sometimes even within the same segment. It might be because he truly doesn't possess any core principles, or because he is a consistently sloppy thinker. But either way, you have to wonder how often Beck leaves his audience unmoored and not knowing what to think anymore -- a state which might in turn make them all the more susceptible to the "answers" he then pretends to provide.
Consider the following examples from recent Beck programming:
This president I think has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep seated hatred for white people, or the white culture, I don't know what it is.
Just over a minute later, after he was reminded that many of Obama's top officials are white, Beck completely reversed himself:
I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people; I'm saying he has a problem.
And then he reversed himself again: "This guy is, I believe, a racist." It's hard to think of a better example of how willing Beck is to change his tune at a moment's notice, even after making the most serious of claims.
On September 29, Beck seemed to suggest that accumulating material possessions was irrelevant to him:
Do you feel like I do? I think you do. We would all absolutely learn to do with less, learn to do with nothing, quite frankly, sew our own clothes, you know, never get any new clothes, just can our own food, work out in the yard, take a bus to work if we needed to, just to have our kids to have the opportunity at the freedom to succeed and fail that this country has always offered its citizens.
However, he has also described himself as an unapologetic capitalist who enjoys making money. Beck on September 1 [emphasis added]:
The media will say, "Oh, he's just a clown." Well, you know what? I am clown. I am a guy who just -- I just want to have laughs and fun. I'm a capitalist. I want to make money. I want to do all that stuff.
And on August 24 [again, emphasis added]:
You see, ask yourself this first question: what do I have to gain if I'm right? If I am right, America transforms into a place where guys like me don't make any money. If I am wrong -- well, then I would be wildly discredited, now, wouldn't I? What could possibly -- what would be my motivation other than I believe these questions must be asked.
For what it's worth, Beck's radio show alone has guaranteed that he has become a very rich man, making his professed disinterest in possessions all the less believable.
On September 28, Beck hosted a studio audience composed of moms. He also welcomed Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist who has repeatedly been a guest on his show. During a discussion of their hopes and fears concerning the future, Ablow engaged in the following exchange with several audience members [emphasis added]:
ABLOW: And the silence was deafening when these mothers grow silent. When the question is asked by Frank, how many of you feel that things will be better for your kids -- think about the tragic proportions of what just happened. They don't feel that they can overcome these forces. That's why neighborhood and community is so important, because you can't do it alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
ABLOW: You need to do it in concert -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
ABLOW: - with other mothers and other people who believe what you do, because it's so lonely to try to turn back the tide of these mammoth forces alone. It's very difficult. It takes a village, doesn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it does!
Now compare this "it takes a village" message to what Ablow said later in the same program:
ABLOW: Most people come to me are coming because they don't know their personal histories. And it's a very dangerous thing to deprive someone of history and spirituality.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
ABLOW: Because what do those things do? They make you autonomous. They give you a sense of self and a sense of feeling confident about the future to make your own decisions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
ABLOW: Take that away from people and what do you get? You get the anxious people coming to my practice. They feel unnerved. Then they need support, right, temporarily from me, but I intend to restore them to autonomy. I'm not sure the government understands the extent to which people can made -- be made dependent. It may be their intention.
There is no reason to believe that one can't simultaneously possess a strong sense of self and a strong sense of community, or that someone can't achieve great things due to their own initiative while also receiving assistance from the society in which they live. These are principals that progressives inherently understand. But do Ablow and Beck believe such things? On the program referenced above, they made no attempt to reconcile Ablow's disparate statements, which were instead presented in a way that suggesting that being a robust individual and belonging to a broader society are mutually exclusive.
Beck has identified Obama's supposed commitment to "reparations" as being at the heart of his presidency, although the general specter of wealth redistribution is what he seems even more fixated on. On his Fox News show, he routinely plays a clip from a 2001 interview Obama did with WBEZ in Chicago, during which the then-law professor stated the following (emphasis added):
The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and, sort of, more basic issues of political and economic justice in the society. One of the -- I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think, that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.
Beck has highlighted the remarks as central to Obama's entire world view. "If you want to understand the big picture in the puzzle that we're trying to put together," he said on October 5, "this is the one thing Obama has said that you must understand above everything else."
Beck believes redistribution schemes are fundamentally un-American, but his explanations of this charge are often so vague and contradictory that they are virtually meaningless. During the same October 5 broadcast cited above, Beck rebutted the idea that he was a cynic in the following way (emphasis added):
Lindsey Graham keeps calling me a cynic. I am not a cynic. I believe in the American people. I believe, look -- my dad was a baker. His dad was a baker. His dad was a baker.
I'm the first guy to ever go to college in my family, and you know what? I went for about 60, 70 days, that's it. You know why? I couldn't afford it.
I believe in the American Dream. We can make it as long as we're being honest with each other, and we help each other out.
Despite this tale -- one which would suggest that Beck himself would have stayed in college had he only had the money to do so -- he continued on with a general denunciation of any form of "social justice" [emphasis added]:
This is Barack Obama in 2001. 2001 -- look at what he said -- he talked about social justice. Social justice is taking money from one group and giving it to another. He talked about economic justice, the same thing. He talked about the political and community organizing, and the events in the organizing on the ground that cobble together the coalitions of power that lead to redistributive change...He believes when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody. That's Marxism!...Spreading the wealth around. Well, that's not a capitalist idea.
What are we to conclude? That Beck is happy that he couldn't afford college? That the poverty he experienced and which limited his choices and options in life was patriotic - was American? Would he have us believe that we should never provide scholarships to aspiring students, that affordable, in-state tuitions paid for by tax revenue is just a Marxist plot to "spread the wealth around"? Or does Beck want us to be "honest with each other" and "help each other out"?
On September 24, Beck told his audience to trust their instincts when thinking about the government. "You know, there is a great book that I read years ago," he said. "It's called The Gift of Fear." Rather than portraying fear as the last thing people should operate off of when making political decisions, Beck embraced it, illustrating his point using a parable implying that we should aspire to be more like dogs [emphasis added]:
The first chapter is how we're all given the gift of fear. And they talk about how it's important not to dismiss that fear. And they talk about dogs and how everybody - you know, there is an incident and somebody, you know - some neighbors rob them and whatever. And the person always says, "You know what, my dog - I should have been listening to my dog, you know. He was yip, yip, yip and barking every time he came over. He just hated it."
Like the dog has some super extra sense that you don't have. You know what it is? It is not that the dog has some special power of seeing bad guys - I swear to you. My dog - I should have listened to my dog.
No, you shouldn't have listened to your dog. You should have listened to your gut. Your dog is missing something that you have, and that the second guess, "No, no, he can't be a bad guy. No, that can't be. No, that's not -"
Listen to your gut. It was a gift, the gift of fear. Right now, your dog would be watching that video going, "Yip, yip, yip!" I'm telling you, listen to the gift of fear. It's there for a reason.
Later on in the program, Beck welcomed Dr. Ablow, who during a discussion of the 9/12 protest, offered a completely contradictory diagnosis (emphasis added):
ABLOW: What is it doing after all? You are tapping emotion, which is what you have been saying - tapping emotion at the expense of analysis. Where are the facts? Let's rally people with the truth.
So what should we listen to? Our head or our gut? And which one does the 9/12 Project appeal to? Apparently, Beck doesn't know.
Beck has attempted to insulate himself from the charge that the right-wing media is encouraging violence, and has often spoken out against violent conduct. And yet, he has at times delivered the exact opposite message. In early August, just three days after imploring his viewers "to be respectful, polite, forceful, and peaceful" at town hall meetings with their Representatives, Beck joked about poisoning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What message were his viewers supposed to take away from the segment, besides the idea that that killing members of Congress is funny?
Three days later, on August 9, Beck engaged in one of his most despicable acts, portraying the president as a homicidal arsonist. After dismissing Obama's plans for immigration reform, Beck said the following:
I don't know about you, but when I saw that story last night, I did this -- you got to be kidding me! I mean, let me -- let me just ask you a question. Maybe I'm alone, but I think it would be just faster if they just shot me in the head. You know what I mean? How much more can -- how much more can he disenfranchise all of us?
He then pretended to pour gasoline on a guest who represented the American people. "President Obama," he yelled, "why don't you just set us on fire?" Is this the work of a host who honestly hopes his audience will remain peaceful and civil?
None of this should surprise us. Beck, after all, now begins every single one of his Fox News broadcasts with a contradiction. "If you believe this country is great," he says, before trotting out a manufactured ill that is theoretically undermining America, "then stand up! Come on -- follow me."
Take action! he is saying -- by doing exactly what I tell you to do. What commonly follows is a mish-mash of contradictory claims, half-baked notions, and flat-out distortions that are so glaring and egregious that they could only be the product of either a profound disdain for serious thought or a deliberate strategy aimed at promoting confusion. Either way, Beck is doing his audience, and the nation, a grave disservice.
For some reason, National Review seems to be taken seriously by the media elite, as though they were thoughtful, intellectually honest conservatives. And yet they've been peddling the conspiracy theory that Bill Ayers actually wrote Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father for more than a year.
This latest round of wishful thinking was set off by Ayers' alleged "admission" that he wrote the book -- an admission that came out of the blue while talking to a conservative blogger in line at Starbucks. If it sounds far-fetched to you that Ayers would, after all this time, blurt out a confession while standing in line for an iced latte, that's probably because you're smarter than Jonah Goldberg.
As Dave Weigel notes, there's a perfectly obvious explanation for Ayers' comment (if you assume he actually said what this blogger claims he said):
A reasonable explanation for this, if we take the heretofore-obscure blogger at her word for what Ayers said: Ayers was messing around with a conservative movement that's been after him for a decade, putting them back on the trail of a fruitless conspiracy theory.
Even AllahPundit of the right-wing web site Hot Air sees this for the nonsense that it is:
What's more amusing? The fact that he'd tease a conservative by baiting her about the right's Cashill/Andersen-fueled authorship suspicions, or the fact that the Examiner seems to think he was making an earnest, honest-to-goodness confession?
Note that this wasn't even in response to a question. He simply blurted it out as soon as the interviewer identified herself as conservative.
Still: I bet this latest, lamest conspiracy theory ends up on FOX News. The only question is whether Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity gets to it first. My money's on Hannity; he's feeling the pressure.
Since Fox News and Andrew Breitbart has been positively obsessed with the ACORN videos I'm sure this will be right up their alley. NOT.
This afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce the results of an unprecedented undercover investigation of illegal sales at gun shows by the City of New York. At 2pm, you'll be able to see the investigation's undercover videos at: GunShowUndercover.org.
From a press release issued by the office of Mayor Bloomberg:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the results of a wide-ranging undercover investigation by the City of New York into illegal gun sales. The investigation, which covered seven gun shows in three states, proves on video how easy it is for criminals to buy firearms at gun shows. 35 of 47 gun sellers sold to people who said either they probably could not pass a background check or to apparent "straw purchasers." The videos will be available on www.nyc.gov/gunshow. The accompanying report, Gun Show Undercover, also available online, documents the extent of the gun show problem, the City's investigative techniques, and offers recommendations on how illegal sales can be prevented.
The undercover investigation sent professional investigators to seven gun shows in Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee to determine whether sellers would engage in two types of illegal transactions. The first involves private sellers selling guns to people who they thought could not pass a federal background check. The second involves licensed dealers conducting illegal straw sales, which are sales made to accomplices posing as buyers in order to help the real buyer avoid a criminal background check.
"The gun show loophole is a deadly serious problem – and this undercover operation exposes just how pervasive and serious it is," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We are sending a copy of our detailed report Gun Show Undercover to every member of the United States Congress. We'll work with Congressional leaders to pass legislation closing the gun show loophole. This is an issue that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment; it's about keeping guns from criminals, plain and simple."
Private Sellers Exploited the Gun Show Loophole
Even though private unlicensed sellers are not required to run background checks using the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check system, it is a federal felony for them to sell guns to people they have reason to believe are prohibited purchasers (such as felons or the mentally ill). In purchases attempted on 30 private sellers, the undercover investigator showed interest in buying a gun by asking about stopping power or by dry-firing the weapon. After agreeing on a price, the undercover would indicate that he probably couldn't pass a background check. At that point, the seller is required by law to refuse the sale – but only 11 out of 30 sellers did so. Investigators found private dealers who failed these integrity tests at every show, including two sellers who failed at multiple shows. In total, 19 of the 30 private sellers approached failed the integrity test.
The 11 sellers who terminated the sale confirmed that private sellers know the law. As one seller in Columbus, Ohio, explained "I mean even as a private citizen, I'm kind of allowed a certain latitude, but once you say that [you can't pass the background check], I'm kind of obligated not to...I think that's what the rules are."
The investigation also revealed that some private sellers are in fact apparently "engaged in the business" of selling firearms without a federal license, in violation of the law. For example, one seller sold to investigators at three different gun shows and acknowledged selling 348 assault rifles in less than one year.
Licensed Dealers Sell to Straw Purchaser at a Gun Show
Undercover investigators also approached licensed dealers at gun shows and simulated straw purchases. A straw sale, a violation of federal law, occurs when a dealer allows someone who is not the actual buyer of the gun to fill out the paperwork and undergo the background check. Each integrity test of licensed dealers involved two investigators. The first was a male investigator who played the role of a person who wants to purchase a handgun but does not fill out any of the required paperwork. The other investigator, a female, served as the "straw" and appeared to be buying the handgun on behalf of the male. This scenario is typical of the straw purchases identified by ATF in its training program, which is designed to teach licensed dealers how to spot straw purchases.
All but one (16 of 17, or 94%) licensed dealer approached by City investigators failed the integrity test by selling to apparent straw purchasers. Only a dealer at a gun show in Niles, Ohio ended the sale after the straw attempted to fill out the paperwork.
Through the licensed and private seller scenarios, investigators purchased 38 guns in total, 36 semi-automatic handguns and 2 assault rifles.
About the Investigation
A team of 40 private investigators supervised by the firm Kroll, a global leader in business intelligence and investigations, worked for four months to capture video of gun shows. Licensed as private investigators in 17 different states, the investigative team has more than 460 years of combined law enforcement experience, including retired federal agents and police officers. Every investigator who participated in the integrity tests was required to complete an intensive training program designed and administered by Kroll.
Howard Kurtz, today, on right-wing talk radio:
My view is that they control no votes, no factions, no military units, but they do have powerful microphones. Whatever influence wielded by Beck and Hannity and Limbaugh (or by liberal commentators on the other side) stems from their ideas and their talents as infotainers. If they peddle misinformation and exaggerations, that can be neutralized by others in the media marketplace. Nearly everyone dismissed Beck's charge that the president is a racist, but the ACORN videos he and Hannity trumpeted on Fox proved to be a legitimate story.
Nonsense. It is far harder to neutralize lies than it is to spread them, as pretty much everyone knows. That's where the line about a lie making it around the world before the truth gets its boots on comes from. It's where the rhetorical question "Where do I go to get my reputation back" comes from. It's not only blindly obvious, it's reinforced by studies and experiments that have been repeatedly written-up in Howard Kurtz' own Washington Post.
And Howard Kurtz knows that the "media marketplace" isn't able to effectively "neutralize" "misinformation and exaggerations." He has to. See, back in August, he wrote a column expressing bewilderment that the media's efforts to debunk the "death panel" lies weren't successful:
For once, mainstream journalists did not retreat to the studied neutrality of quoting dueling antagonists.
They tried to perform last rites on the ludicrous claim about President Obama's death panels, telling Sarah Palin, in effect, you've got to quit making things up.
But it didn't matter. The story refused to die.
The crackling, often angry debate over health-care reform has severely tested the media's ability to untangle a story of immense complexity. In many ways, news organizations have risen to the occasion; in others they have become agents of distortion. But even when they report the facts, they have had trouble influencing public opinion.
In the 10 days after Palin warned on Facebook of an America "in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel,' " The Washington Post mentioned the phrase 18 times, the New York Times 16 times, and network and cable news at least 154 times (many daytime news shows are not transcribed).
While there is legitimate debate about the legislation's funding for voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions, the former Alaska governor's claim that government panels would make euthanasia decisions was clearly debunked. Yet an NBC poll last week found that 45 percent of those surveyed believe the measure would allow the government to make decisions about cutting off care to the elderly -- a figure that rose to 75 percent among Fox News viewers.
Kurtz reiterated that point in an online Q&A a few weeks later:
the bogus "death panels" did seem to crowd out other coverage -- in other words, even as journalists said and wrote that there were no such panels, they kept the controversy alive in a way that may have made some people say, hmmm.
So why is Howard Kurtz now pretending that the "media marketplace" can "neutralize" the misinformation from Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity & company? Maybe because if he didn't, he'd have to take a strong stand against the right-wing liars -- and he just can't bring himself to do that?
As Oliver Willis noted this week, and CF has been tracking for months, the British press often just makes stuff up when it comes to its Obama reporting. They make up stuff that quickly gets scooped up by the right-wing blogosphere, which then produces lots of traffic for the bogus scoops. Somewhere in that calculation though, journalism takes a back seat.
The latest installment comes courtesy of the U.K. Telegraph's Alex Spillius, the same person whose work Oliver dissected yesterday. (He's en fuego.) His latest effort is headlined:
Barack Obama cancels meeting with Dalai Lama 'to keep China happy'
Note the quotes. Typically in journalism, when something is in quotes, the person who made the statement is identified. That's especially true when the quotes appear in the headline. But this is the British press reporting from Washington, D.C., and normal rules of journalism do not apply.
In truth, the phrase "to keep China happy" never appears in the article itself, which, of course, means the Telegraph never identifies the person who made that mysterious statement. In other words, the incendiary quote is literally invented and then placed in the headline.