Matthew Yglesias, noting yet another study that demonstrates the difficulty of correcting lies and myths once they are spread, concludes:
[P]eople who care about honesty ought to consider themselves very seriously obligated to reprimand people who are deliberately spreading misinformation. At the end of the day, it's extremely difficult to actually counter misinformation, and so society needs there to be disincentives to spreading it.
That's a very good point, and something the media does very poorly. Reporters tend to privilege lying, rather than punishing it. In order to remove the incentives for lying, the media should shun, rather than embrace, people who have a history of spreading falsehoods.
To take one obvious recent example: During last year's presidential campaign, John McCain lied. A lot. He lied personally, and he allowed his campaign to lie. A lot. There was actually a brief period when the media acknowledged this; when they debunked his false claims. But then what happened? They quickly moved on, and began rehabilitating him (scroll down to "Rehabbing McCain.) They insisted that wasn't the "real McCain," that he was really "principled" and "honorable." They pretended both campaigns were equally negative. And now? McCain's dishonest campaign is a thing of the past; the media pretends it never happened.
That, quite obviously, rewards lying. The primary disincentive to political figures spreading misinformation is the possibility that they will be seen as dishonest. If the media refuses to make that dishonesty clear, there will be more misinformation.
(Of course, the opposite problem kicks in when the media decides to portray the wrong candidate as dishonest, and make false claims in order to do so...)
Gawker reported the details on this yesterday, and it's still worth a look.
Basically, late last week Newsweek posted an interview with Scarborough, who's out pushing a new book. And right up at the top, because of the headlines made by the killing of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, Newsweek asked Scarborough about the fact that as a young attorney he had once defended the murderer of an abortion doctor. (A fact the Village Voice highlighted last week.)
When the Newsweek interview was posted online, the abortion part was featured right at the top. But then somebody from Scarborough's "team" contacted Newsweek and complained, so Newsweek de-emphasized the abortion doctor discussion and moved it down further in the interview.
Who explained the change to Gawker? Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. Who's a frequent guest on Scarborough's MSNBC morning show? Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.
UPDATE: And just to be clear, it was Meacham himself who opted to alter the Scarborough interview.
These puff pieces pretty much write themselves at this point. Although this effort from ABC's John Stossel is particularly puffy.
See, Beck's a funny guy, who holds Democrats and Republicans accountable. He's just like that guy from Network. He speaks up for the little guy. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
BTW, if Beck's so insightful and entertaining why doesn't ABC ever have him on the air? ABC's Good Morning America hired him to be a regular commentator but virtually never had him on the show. What do ABC's GMA producers knows that John Stossel does not? (Well, besides all that....)
Because even when journalists are factual, conservatives claim the press' bias is showing. It's comical to watch, actually.
Cue Newsbusters and this item:
CBS's Smith: GOP Base 'Mostly White, Older, Very Religious'
Newsbusters flagged Brian Smith at CBS because he was bad-mouthing the Republican Party [emphasis original] :
While discussing the future of the GOP on Sunday, CBS's Harry Smith wondered: "Is there room for moderates in the Republican Party?...there's a brand-new Gallup poll that mostly white, older, very religious, just almost demographically the future of the party can't just be based in those folks."
Apparently Newsbusters didn't like Smith painting a portrait of the GOP that made it look like it was the party of white people. But guess what, it's true and Newsbusters never even tried to deny the polling data that Smith cited.
Smith on CBS made a factual observation about the makeup of the Republican Party, and Newsbusters called him out for...making a factual observation about the makeup of the Republican Party?
Like we said, conservatives make lousy media critics.
Via Think Progress:
In recent days, Fox's Bill O'Reilly has criticized the "liberal media" and CNN for what he viewed as a paucity of coverage of the deadly attack on the Army-Navy recruiting station in Little Rock, AR last week. "Only Anderson Cooper at 10 o'clock covered the story," O'Reilly said of CNN. (In fact, CNN had reported on the attack over a dozen times.) Despite O'Reilly's insistence that Fox News has been following the attack story more closely than its competitors, when the lone survivor of the attack, Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, spoke with reporters earlier today, only CNN and MSNBC carried the press conference live. Fox News never cut to the press conference, choosing instead to focus on Newt Gingrich's criticisms of the Obama administration from last night's congressional Republican fundraiser.
So the question is, will O'Reilly complain about his network's failure to cover today's presser? Or is Fox News above such complaints because its not part of the "liberal media"?
Newsbusters' Kyle Drennen:
CBS 'Early Show' Gushes Over Obama Date Night In Paris
On Monday, correspondent Richard Roth gave a glowing report on President and Michelle Obama in Paris: "The big tourist treat in Paris this weekend was for the tourists treated to a sight of the Obamas driving by. For the President and First Lady, the treat may have been a European reprise of their date night in New York a week ago."
Really? That's what qualifies as gushing these days?
It's getting to the point that if a media figure mentions Barack Obama without accusing him of being a secret Muslim who can't produce his birth certificate and is dragging America towards socialism, some right-wing clown claims the report "gushed" over Obama.
Gushing is when Chris Matthews and Gordon Liddy ramble on about how the president's "manly characteristic" looks in a parachute harness and how he "looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears." That's gushing.
This Early Show report that has Drennen so worked up? That's nothing.
Just to echo what Jamison wrote in regards to the WashPost's Ben Pershing's observation that the Sotomayor battle is unfolding just like previous SCOTUS show-downs. From Pershing's vantage point, Democrats and Republicans have assumed their predictable roles, with opponents making the exact same charges against the nominee that are always made.
Inside the Village, they've seen this act before. Nothing new this time around.
Because c'mon folks, Supreme Court nominees always get tagged as racists--early and often, in fact--when they face a confirmation, right? Don't act like Democrats didn't brand Roberts and Alito as racists right after their names were put forward by President Bush. We all know they did.
Because that's what always happens in these battles, which is why the press had such a ho-hum reaction when an array of high-profile conservatives branded and demeaned Sotomayor a racist. The press didn't really blink, let alone object. Why? Because that ugly charge gets thrown around all the time during Supreme Court nominations.
Jonah Goldberg wonders:
Would judge Sotomayor be your first pick in a lawsuit against a Puerto Rican organization if your livelihood was on the line? It may be entirely unfair to her, but I think reasonable people might think long and hard on that question.
Goldberg seems to think he's won some sort of rhetorical point against Sotomayor by inviting readers to consider whether they would want her to preside over their hypothetical lawsuit against a hypothetical "Puerto Rican organization."
In fact, Goldberg has inadvertently made the case for diversity in the courts. After all, Goldberg's question can easily be re-phrased: Would Judge Roberts or Alito be your first pick in a lawsuit against an organization run by white males if your livelihood was on the line?
The premise of the Obama piece seems like a stretch, and sure enough Politico can't really substantiate its headline:
Barack Obama invokes Jesus more than George W. Bush
Whether Obama does or does not, I don't think really matters or is even all that newsworthy. But in terms of journalism, the Politico piece highlights how reporters there often concoct news angles based on little or no evidence and then just run with them.
For the "Jesus" article, Politico's Eamon Javers points to only three times since taking office that Obama has referred to God during public speeches. To me, that number seems utterly ordinary and no, Javers never convinces me that Bush didn't also make three references to God during his first four months in office.
And again, the Obama examples are utterly mundane:
In his speech Thursday in Cairo, Obama told the crowd that he is a Christian and mentioned the Islamic story of Isra, in which Moses, Jesus and Mohammed joined in prayer.
At the University of Notre Dame on May 17, Obama talked about the good works he'd seen done by Christian community groups in Chicago. "I found myself drawn — not just to work with the church but to be in the church," Obama said. "It was through this service that I was brought to Christ."
And a month before that, Obama mentioned Jesus' Sermon on the Mount at Georgetown University to make the case for his economic policies. Obama retold the story of two men, one who built his house on a pile of sand and the other who built his on a rock: "We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand," Obama said. "We must build our house upon a rock."
Yet from that, Javers types up a sweeping trend story about Obama's "invocation of the Christian Messiah" and his "overtly Christian rhetoric," even though Politico can't document either.
Also, notice that in the third example, Obama in his Georgetown speech never mentioned "Jesus," as the Politico headline claimed. Obama simply made reference to "a parable." So in truth, Politico can only find two instances to back up its storyline.
FYI, it was Politico's Ben Smith, typing up a misleading shorthand of Javers article, who announced Obama "talks about Jesus constantly." Because that's the man-made story Politico's pushing today.
Washington Post reporter Ben Pershing:
Here's a useful thing to remember: When it comes to judicial confirmation fights, everyone is a hypocrite. Almost every tactic Republicans are using now, Democrats used in the minority. And vice versa. It's really striking, when you've watched enough of these fights, how much everyone plays their roles according to script.
Funny, I don't remember Democrats saying Sam Alito and John Roberts only got into college because of their race, or that once there they benefited from "preferential treatment." I don't remember Democrats attacking Alito for saying that when he hears discrimination cases, he thinks about family members who have faced similar discrimination. I don't remember Democrats trafficking in gross ethnic and gender stereotypes about either Roberts or Alito.
So what's the evidence that Democrats have displayed hypocrisy on anything approaching the GOP's level? Pershing didn't provide any; he just lapsed into the standard "both sides are equally guilty" nonsense.