Perhaps Glenn Beck is on to something. The more I read W. Cleon Skousen, the radical conservative conspiracy theorist at the center of all things Beck, the more I start to like him. He's barking mad, make no mistake, but the man certainly could spin quite a yarn.
Take, for example, page 24 of Skousen's The Naked Capitalist, and its explanation of the aims of "the world's secret power manipulators":
In the beginning of this presentation I pointed out, some of the disturbing questions which are likely to occur to anyone who has been trying to understand the significance of the amazing rends of current history. There is a growing volume of evidence that the highest centers of political and economic power have been forcing the entire human race toward a global, socialist, dictatorial-oriented society. And what has been most baffling about it has been the fact that this drift toward dictatorship with its inevitable obliteration of a thousand years of struggle toward human freedom, is being plotted, promoted and implemented by the leaders of free nations and the super-rich of those nations whose positions of affluence would seem to make them the foremost beneficiaries of the free-enterprise, property-oriented, open society in which so much progress has been made. Certainly they, above all men, should know that in order for this system to survive, freedom of action and the integrity of property rights must be preserved. Then why are the super-capitalists trying to destroy them?
Dr. [Carroll] Quigley provides an answer to this question but it is so startling that at first it seems virtually inconceivable. It becomes rational only as his scattered references to it are collected and digested point by point. In a nutshell, Dr. Quigley has undertaken to expose what every insider like himself has known all along -- that the world hierarchy of the dynastic super-rich is out to take over the entire planet, doing it with Socialistic legislation where possible, but having no reluctance to use Communist revolution where necessary.
They must be very powerful indeed to dispense "Communist revolutions" as freely as Tic-Tacs.
So, yes, this is nuts. But don't think for one minute it starts and ends with Skousen. Glenn Beck is completely on board with this stuff. Take, for example, this conversation he had with Lou Dobbs back on October 4, 2006, when the two were still CNN colleagues:
BECK: Was Carroll Quigley right on the shadow government, on the companies taking over and really controlling everything? Because it's really the only thing that I can put my finger on to say, "Why aren't we doing anything about illegal immigration?" We're run by companies now, aren't we?
DOBBS: Well, both political parties are run by the very same people, corporate America, $2.4 billion in lobbying each year. No other special interest comes that close.
The power of corporate America -- and I'm talking about big business. I'm not talking about small business. There's even a fiction in this country now that small business, medium-size business, and corporate America are all the same. They're not.
Corporate America is working against the interest of the medium- and small-size businesses, are working against the middle class, destroying jobs, not creating them. Small business continues to create jobs in this country, more than 80 percent of them. But the truth is that corporate America is dominating our legislative and our electoral system.
BECK: Wouldn't you go further than that? It's not just corporate America. I mean, it's global corporations. I think we're being turned into MexAmeriCanada.
And, of course, one need only look back as far as, well, last night to ascertain Beck's opinion on whether we're moving "toward a global, socialist, dictatorial-oriented society." So the next time you hear Beck uncork some loony conspiracy theory, remember that as crazy as he might appear, he's really just standing on the shoulders of crazier giants.
After reading her predictable, talking points-approved condemnation of the White House's push back against Fox News, my suspicion is that the Post columnist doesn't watch Fox News. And my guess is she's not alone among the growing army of Village pundits who have all stepped forward to uniformly announce that the White House is way off the mark in deciding to fact check Fox News.
In a way, Marcus is simply reinforcing the age-old Beltway truism: When Democrats criticize the press it's whiny and petty, but when Republicans do it, it's savvy and brash. (Just ask veterans of the Clinton administration.)
But more specifically, Marcus is commenting on a media landscape of which she is completely ignorant. For instance, she claims Fox News operates just like MSNBC did during the Bush years. MSNBC featured Bush bashers Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, and today Fox News boasts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, so c'mon what's the big deal. I guess the big deal is I don't remember either Olbermann or Maddow comparing MSNBC employees to persecuted Jews during the Holocaust, which was the twisted comparison Beck recently made regarding the Fox News staff.
In other words, I don't recall Olbermann or Maddow going bat shit crazy on national television, scribbling away on a chalkboard as they fantasized about connecting George Bush to every conceivable strain of historical evil. And I don't remember either MSNBC host launching hateful and hollow witch hunts against semi-obscure administration officials, the way Hannity has latched onto the homophobic attacks against Kevin Jennings.
But guess what? The same elite pundits who are telling the White House is chill out over Fox News are the same elite pundits who for weeks have refused to acknowledge the hateful Jennings witch hunt. Which brings me back to my original question: Do journalists like Marcus even watch Fox News? Do they understand what its programming day now looks like? My guess is the answer is no, even though lots of them have taken it upon themselves to speak out as Fox News experts; to lecture the White House about how normal and mainstream the cable outlet is.
For Marcus' edification, here's a recent example of where the Fox News family broke from the standards of professional journalism and clearly pushed a falsehood.
Here's another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another.
Yes, that list just covers a sampling from this October. And no, I don't recall MSNBC flooding its airwaves with provably false programming the way Fox News now does on a routine basis.
Can any serious journalist look at the kind of media malpractice record that Fox News has accumulated this year and really claim that it's not doing anything that's unusual or unique in the ranks of modern-day American journalism? Or that it's just like MSNBC, but from the right? Or that the White House should not be concerned about the nearly uninterrupted falsehoods unleashed in its direction?
Can any serious journalist look at that record and claim that it's the White House that ought to change its behavior? They can if they don't actually watch Fox News.
Courtesy of the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus:
Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC. "Opinion journalism masquerading as news," White House communications director Anita Dunn declared of Fox. Certainly Fox tends to report its news with a conservative slant -- but has anyone at the White House clicked over to MSNBC recently? Or is the only problem opinion journalism that doesn't match its opinion?
Has Marcus "clicked over" to MSNBC lately? Or is she just mindlessly parroting the right-wing talking point that MSNBC and Fox are equivalent?
If she Marcus did watch MSNBC, she'd see former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough hosting three agenda-setting hours each morning. She'd see Mika Brzezinski, JoeSco's ostensibly "liberal" sidekick, spouting off about how conservative Sarah Palin fans are the "real Americans."
She'd see former Nixon and Reagan aide and three-time Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan -- the nation's most famous bigot.
She'd see Chris Matthews, whose has for years displayed open contempt for liberals, overt misogyny, and an archaic belief that minorities are not "regular" people.
She'd Michelle Bernard take a moment away from sending lie-filled anti-health care reform attack-emails to host an MSNBC special dealing with, among other things, health care.
And then maybe she would remember that MSNBC is the channel that brought us Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and Don Imus. The channel that fired Phil Donahue despite strong ratings simply because Donahue opposed the Iraq war. The channel that specializes more than any other in apologies for employees' offensive on-air statements.
Any journalist who says MSNBC is in any way the liberal equivalent to Fox News lacks either judgment or honesty -- and, either way, should not be taken seriously -- about anything.
And three makes the trend. First it was AP, and then Gallup. Now, the latest Washington Post/ABC poll shows Obama's job approval rating moving back up, marking his first gains since April. We'll see if that topic finally starts showing up among the chattering class.
The real news though, as George Stephanopoulos spells out on his blog, is the crushing poll numbers for the GOP. Despite the beloved Beltway narrative about how it's gearing up to bash vulnerable Dems in 2010, the GOP appears to be a political party in free fall. When will the press start emphasizing that storyline?
From Stephanopoulos [emphasis added]:
Only 20% of Americans call themselves Republicans -- the lowest in 26 years. Only 19% trust Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country's future -- compared to 49% trust in Obama. In addition, President Obama outpaces his fellow Democrats on the Hill -- by 15 points -- in this measure, providing some ammunition to the perpetual White House argument to Democratic members that their political success is inextricably linked to the president's. And unlike other recent polls, ABC-Post give Democrats a 51-39 edge in the generic Congressional ballot
From the October 19 FoxNews.com "You Decide" poll:
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his October 19 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
This Politico headline tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the article that follows: "Palin offers calm critique of Baucus bill." Politico's Andy Barr goes on to cut-and-paste from Palin's Facebook post about the Baucus health care bill, pausing occasionally to describe the post as "tough but wonky," tout her citation of an actual economist to "make her argument" and marvel that Palin's approach was "more tempered" than her "Death Panel" claims earlier this year.
Not mentioned: Whether Palin's "calm critique" is accurate and fair, or whether anyone disagrees with anything she wrote.
"He said/She said" journalism is bad enough. But this is worse: This is just "She said."
This is awkward. Last month Fox News purchased a full-page ad in the Washington Post blasting its television news competitors for having ignored the "tea party" story, and especially the Sept. 12, anti-Obama rally in the nation's capitol. The clear implication behind the bogus claim was that the liberal media were blind to conservative protests.
Question: Will Rupert Murdoch now purchase an ad in the Post attacking his own biased cable channel?