After days and days of conservative commentators loudly denying that there was anything racial about the Tea Party protests or the September 12 hissy fit on the National Mall, the Tea Party organizers themselves have decided to take a different, even less coherent approach to the issue of race. According to CNN:
Posters portraying President Obama as a witch doctor may be racist, organizers of Tea Party protests say, but they reflect anger about where he is leading the country.
The posters, showing Obama wearing a feather headdress and a bone through his nose, have recently popped up in e-mails, on Web sites and at Tea Party protests.
The image has stoked debate and cast attention on the rallies, which have drawn people Tea Party organizers describe as on the fringe and not representative of the overall movement. Their general viewpoint, leaders say, is that there's been too much federal government intervention, particularly concerning health care and taxes.
The witch doctor imagery is blatantly racist, critics contend.
Others remind that presidents get made fun off all the time, and the election of a black president has only made racially charged political satire more sensitive.
While not denying the crudeness of the image, Tea Party organizers stressed that those who carry the signs are a few "bad apples."
"That [witch doctor] image is not representative at all of what this movement is about," said Joe Wierzbicki, a coordinator of the Tea Party Express, a three-week series of protests across the country.
The anger the image portrays, however, "says to me that a lot of people in this country are angry about the direction that the administration and Congress are taking us," he said.
"And you're going to see a wide expanse of those people," he continued. "Some are going to be more extreme. Most of them are going to be in the mainstream of American politics, as evidenced by Obama's falling poll numbers."
So ... Wierzbicki acknowledges that the Obama-witch doctor poster is racist and insists it's not representative of the movement, but in the next breath says it does represent the anger in this country towards the president and Congress, which is basically what the Tea Parties are all about, if the Tea Party Express mission statement is to be believed:
At each stop the tour will highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress who have voted for higher spending, higher taxes, and government intervention in the lives of American families and businesses. These Members of Congress have infringed upon the freedom of the individual in this great nation, and its time for us to say: "Enough is Enough!"
I suppose if the next Tea Party rally featured a flaming cross, that would represent their burning desire to stop health care reform.
Following a spate of violence associated with the extreme far-right fringe, Glenn Beck has made a point of portraying the 9-12 protesters and those who sympathize with them as peaceful, civil Americans who are simply engaged in a substantive, issues-based disagreement with the Obama administration.
Yesterday on his Fox program, he made that point again, dismissing the idea that racism or violent thoughts had anything at all to do with the conservative opposition to the progressive agenda or the White House. Here's how he put it:
BECK: Do you want -- do you want to call somebody a racist? If you do, you better have some facts to back it up. But in today's America, does anybody even care? Does anybody even ask you, why would you say that? Is anybody asking, why -- how is he suddenly a racist?
NBC did this report last night on the tea party out in Washington, D.C., where people were hugging, singing -- singing national anthems, "Star Spangled Banner," hugging, peaceful, no arrests, zero, no arrest. And yet NBC does this thing of a growing violent crowd. What? Can you back that one up, Brian Williams? Help me out on that one, will you?
Beck's ignorance is deliberate and willful. He is choosing to ignore what is going on at his own events. Consider the following signs from the 9-12 rally, photos courtesy of NineTwelvePhotos on Flickr:
Not to mention the warm welcome that birther Orly Taitz received:
If Beck refuses to see the violence and racism in front of his nose, it's because he doesn't want to acknowledge the true consequences of his work and others in the right-wing media.
In this week's issue, Hendrik Hertzberg takes aim at the GOP Noise Machine, examining the "lies and fantasies" being hatched about Obama; the "lunatic paranoia" being smeared around.
Hertzberg notes [emphasis added]:
The protesters do not look to politicians for leadership. They look to niche media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and their scores of clones behind local and national microphones. Because these figures have no responsibilities, they cannot disappoint. Their sneers may be false and hateful—they all routinely liken the President and the "Democrat Party" to murderous totalitarians—but they are employed by large, nominally respectable corporations and supported by national advertisers, lending them a considerable measure of institutional prestige
I'm glad Hertzberg included Savage in his list of hate-mongerers, since it was a just a few weeks ago that The New Yorker, in a massive bout of misjudgment, published a long, flattering profile of Savage that actually did its best to prop the hate taker as some sort of misunderstood intellectual; "a marvelous storyteller, a quirky talker, and an incorrigible free-associater."
Hertzberg, thankfully, returns some common sense to The New Yorker's coverage of Savage.
The Media Research Center's Rich Noyes has issued a "Media Reality Check" purporting to be a "report card" of how major media outlets covered the 9/12 anti-Obama protests. But Noyes' analysis is curiously incomplete.
For instance, Noyes noted the performance of only one newspaper, The New York Times, which "buried the protests on page A37 of Sunday's paper." Noyes didn't mention what The Washington Post did -- perhaps because it broke the MRC's faulty liberal-bias template by putting the protest prominently on the front page. (That high-profile placement wasn't enough for fellow MRC employee Tim Graham.)
Noyes didn't do any relevant comparison of coverage, complaining only that the Times' "932-word story [on the protest] was only slightly longer than the 724-word story the paper granted back in March to an ACORN protest with only 40 participants." But that protest was in the New York metro area and thus more directly relevant to its core readers than a larger protest outside of NYC.
A more direct comparison would be to a similarly sized 2002 anti-war protest in Washington. As we've noted, while the Times published a photo of the anti-Obama protest in its front page -- something Noyes failed to mention -- it did not do so for the anti-war protest; the articles on both protests were inside the A section.
Noyes also downplayed the extent to which Fox News fawned over the protest. He wrote: "By far, Fox News offered the most detailed coverage, with a two-hour midday program on Saturday plus regular updates throughout the day, and FNC stuck to presenting the protesters' point of view, not denigrating them."
Noyes fails to note that Fox News did a lot more than present the protesters' point of view -- it promoted the bejeezus out of the protest, to the point where it was an unofficial sponsor. That's some serious straying over the line from news into advocacy, but it earned Fox News an "A" for coverage from Noyes.
Noyes downgraded Fox News' rating on tone of coverage to an"A-" apparently for a single comment by Geraldo Rivera that Noyes called a "sour note." After all, balanced coverage of conservatives is not what Noyes and his MRC buddies really want -- nothing less than completely positive, sycophantic coverage will do.
The mag sets aside 3,600 words for a Beck profile this week. Here's the lone mention of the sweeping and shockingly successful ad boycott campaign that has cost Glenn Beck more than 60 advertisers this summer:
A liberal group called Color of Change has organized an advertiser boycott of Beck's TV show — great publicity for the group and a boon to Beck's ratings.
Like so many in the mainstream press, Time can't be bothered to detail whether the ad boycott is, y'know, working. At Time, it simply exists. The fact that it's perhaps the most effective ad boycott in modern TV history, or that it is reportedly costing Fox News $600,000 each week in lost revenues, is no interest to Time reporters.
Instead, they spin the boycott as a success...for Beck. i.e. It helped spike his ratings!
Time's David Von Drehle wastes no time in following the media's rich tradition of writing puff pieces about incendiary conservative demagogues. Here's Von Drehle discussing the crowd size at this weekend's 9/12 protest in the first paragraph of his Glenn Beck cover story:
If you get your information from liberal sources, the crowd numbered about 70,000, many of them greedy racists. If you get your information from conservative sources, the crowd was hundreds of thousands strong, perhaps as many as a million, and the tenor was peaceful and patriotic.
Personally, I get my information from liberal sources like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
The tens of thousands of protesters marched to the U.S. Capitol chanting various slogans and waving posters that voiced a rather broad array of grievances against big government and the leaders, particularly President Obama, who the protesters blame for its size and scope.
Or CNN.com, which, like Time, is owned by Time Warner:
On the final stop of the Tea Party Express, thousands marched to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday to protest health care reform, higher taxes and what they see as out-of-control government spending.
Damn liberal media.
So, who are the "conservative sources" placing the crowd estimates much higher? Well, there's cover boy Glenn Beck, citing a variety of university "studies," depending on the day. Then we have Michelle Malkin, using imaginary ABC News reports. Then there's Pam Geller and Thomas Lifson, repurposing quotes about Obama's inauguration and citing random people who overheard the police talking.
It's hard to know who to trust.
And, to answer the title question "Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?"
Contrary to Glenn Beck's programming directives, Fox News took a quick break yesterday from hyperventilating and misinforming about ACORN to hyperventilate and misinform about health care, as Neil Cavuto molded an entire segment around the Investor's Business Daily poll showing that legions of doctors will up and quit if any sort of health care reform is passed. As Nate Silver helpfully explained, the IBD survey, which runs contrary to every legitimate poll of physicians on health care reform, is the product of biased and inept polling practices.
Nevertheless, Cavuto hyped the discredited IBD poll, calling it "a brand new poll showing that 45 percent of America's doctors will consider hanging up their stethoscopes for good if the government overhauls health care." But even as he touted the poll's "strong warning," Cavuto's graphics department was working to undermine him [emphasis added]:
It's like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck looking like fools when they announced, without the slightest idea of the facts at hand, that an ACORN worker in California had killed her husband. (The ex-husband is alive and well, thank you very much.)
The Obama-hating GOP Noise Machine is never content with the facts as they exist, so they create the facts as they want them to be. (2 million at the D.C. protest!) And in the case of ACORN, partisans on the right are already busy stripping away any semblance of legitimacy the story may have had, at least in terms of how news consumers see it.
And for that we can thank folks like Taranto, who suggests a special prosecutor ought to be appointed to investigate ACORN... and Obama. No joke. A handful of community organizers with a private organization that receive so little in annual funding from the government that it couldn't even cover the Pentagon's costs for 15 minutes, were caught on tape doing and saying some dumb things, and so naturally Taranto thinks Obama ought to be at the center of a massive criminal investigation. Using beloved right-wing logic, Taranto claims that if ACORN isn't prosecuted, people will assume it's because of Obama and that's why we need a special prosecutor. (Anyone else feeling '90s nostalgia in the air?)
Not only is the call for a special prosecutor comical enough, but keep in mind that right-wingers like Taranto and the editorial page staffers at the WSJ opposed, and continue to oppose, pretty much every conceivable attempt to investigate the lawbreaking that occurred during the Bush administration. Conservative media members emphatically insist, for example, that nobody involved with okaying torture should ever--ever!--be criminally prosecuted, and certainly not anyone connected with the White House.
But all of a sudden, a special prosecutor is the only person who can uncover the truth about Obama, ACORN and...what exactly?
But I actually want to thank Taranto for so quickly overreaching and turning the ACORN story into just another partisan joke. Presented that way, I can't imagine news consumers will care.