It's pretty much what critics feared would happen under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch: The paper's proud tradition of straight news would be compromised. And it has been. The purposeful dumbing down that's taken place inside the Journal newsroom has been sweeping.
Just take a look at this painfully dumb (and GOP-friendly) story by Amy Schatz from today's news section headlined, "FCC Official Comes Under Fire for Past Statements."
New Federal Communications Commission chief Julius Genachowski says he wants to promote diversity in media ownership, but his recent decision to hire Mark Lloyd, a civil-rights attorney critical of corporate-owned media, to help with that effort has riled some talk-radio hosts who fear the agency is planning to go after them.
To call this a non-story would be polite. Some right-wing radio nuts are returning to the Fairness Doctrine fever swamp, claiming Democrats and government bogymen like Lloyd are out to silence them (the nuts have zero proof, as usual), and the Journal treats it as news.
Worse, the Journal pretends there's some sort of "uproar" over the hiring of Lloyd, a mid-level staff attorney who sets no policy. Here, dear readers, is the entire proof provided by the Journal of the "uproar" [emphasis added]:
The administration "is trying to stifle dissenting voices," said radio host Rush Limbaugh, discussing Mr. Lloyd with Fox News host Glenn Beck last month. (Fox News is owned by News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal.)
"He doesn't like corporate ownership of media," said Seton Motley, communications director of the Media Research Center, a conservative interest group that has been critical of Mr. Lloyd. "He wants to use the vast power of the FCC to hammerlock the radio industry."
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley in a letter last month to Mr. Genachowski said that "given the appointment of Mr. Lloyd," he was concerned that the FCC chairman was moving away from pledges not to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, a policy abandoned in 1987 that required licensed broadcasters to give equal time to differing political views.
Honestly, if Journal editors now consider hanging on every nutty word uttered by Rush Limbaugh, and monitoring every pointless press release issued by the Media Research Center is news, than the newsroom's more lost than I feared. If Journal editors and reporters really think that every time there's an "outcry among conservative commentators," that the newspaper needs to immediately document the faux scandal, than the paper's become a lost cause.
But oh well, I'm sure Rupert's happy. And that's what now counts at the Journal, right?
UPDATED: Just how bad is the Journal's reporting? In the last two days, the Journal has published two stand-alone articles about Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst. In neither article did the Journal ever point out that Wilson's hysterical outburst about health care reform and illegal immigrants was baseless; that Wilson himself lied.
Yesterday, Media Matters for America noted that an Ashley Furniture HomeStore ad aired on that day's edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, even though the company had previously stated it had "pulled" its advertising from the program. We subsequently received the following statement from Ashley Furniture:
"Ashley Furniture HomeStore confirmed the elimination of advertising from "Glenn Beck" with confirmation from the network as of Aug. 27, said Kendra Maggert, a spokeswoman for the company. "The ad that was aired yesterday cleared through a mechanical error at the network and was not intended to air on "Glenn Beck." We are working with the network to ensure that the mechanical error does not occur again and expect immediate confirmation from the network."
With the eight year anniversary of 9/11 mere hours away, the Associated Press has written a very moving, very emotional piece, focusing on victims who fear leaving the house on that day, victims who will never view that day as routine, victims who get a sick feeling in their stomach when the anniversary arrives each year - Muslims.
OK, so the AP shouldn't be reporting on the feelings of Muslims on 9-11. I'm not sure why they shouldn't be doing this, but Rusty offers an explanation:
While nobody is promoting discrimination against any group of people based on the actions of a maniacal few, one has to question if the alleged terror experienced by Muslims on this anniversary warrants a focal point? On a day in which Americans take time to remember the devastation and the loss of life on 9/11, we are encouraged by the AP to feel sorry for those who might receive strange stares, or may 'feel' less safe on this day because they are Muslim.
See if you can follow this -- Weiss isn't saying that the AP should discriminate against Muslims, he's just saying that the AP shouldn't report on Muslims on 9-11 because they are Muslim. That's pretty much the definition of "discrimination." Also notice how Weiss questions whether American Muslims really do experience their "alleged terror."
But it gets even better:
A quote from Sarah Sayeed attempts to capture the anxiety of the day as she wonders, 'should I go anywhere?' An appropriate question, but perhaps more so for Americans who asked themselves the same question weeks, months, and even years after the tragedy. There is no attempt to capture the anxiety of those who still give a quick glance up to the sky each time the sound of an airplane fills their ears.
The AP article notes that Sayeed was born in India but emigrated to the U.S. when she was 8 years old. There's an excellent chance that she is, in fact, an American citizen. And yet, Weiss casually segregates her from "Americans" -- presumably non-Muslim Americans whose thoughts and feelings he gives more weight to based solely on the fact that they aren't Muslim.
He caps everything off with this observation:
It seems that on a significant date in American history, the AP would rather focus on manufacturing sympathy for Muslims, than reporting on an actual tragedy for Americans.
This is just stupid. First off, notice once again the segregation of "Muslims" from "Americans." Secondly, the Associated Press runs dozens of articles each day, often on the same subject. Even if Weiss had a legitimate beef about the tone of this AP article, his suggestion that they have ignored all other aspects of September 11 is absurdly wrong.
This Washington Times article about Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst makes no effort to determine whether Wilson was right about Barack Obama lying. (He wasn't.) In fact, the Times devotes a couple of paragraphs to letting Wilson make his case:
Mr. Wilson further apologized Thursday for his outburst but defended his stance that the administration's health-care reform plan will include coverage for illegal immigrants.
Mr. Wilson said two amendments in Capitol Hill legislation that required proof of legal U.S. residence for heath care coverage were voted down by Democrats. He also said party leaders told him to apologize to the White House.
No mention of the fact that independent fact-checkers say Wilson is wrong. Not even a quote from a Democrat saying Wilson was wrong. Not so much as a hint that, on the facts (as opposed to the decorum) Wilson wrong.
So, then I open my email, and I see this message from the Washington Times to its readers:
Gee, maybe that has something to do with the Washington Times failing to tell readers Wilson was wrong?
More than five dozen advertisers. Incredibly, that's how many sponsors of Glenn Beck have gone on the record and announced they will no longer support his program. So why won't the press report that fact?
According to ColorofChange.org the number of fleeing advertisers has reached 62. As I've noted several times in recent weeks, I'm certain that with this astonishingly successful ad boycott we're watching television history unfold before our eyes. I can't recall any other television host, and not certainly one in modern times, that has managed to shed so many all-star, blue chip advertisers the way Beck has in the last month.
If ColorofChange had convinced six or seven corporate sponsors to walked away from Glenn Beck it would have been a big deal. But 62, and counting? It's unheard of. Period.
Question: If you were selling ad time on cable TV, would you rather build your show on the shoulders of Freije Treatment Systems, Mortgage relief hotline 1-888-336-5967, and IRSTaxAgreements.com, the way Glenn Beck is today? Or would you rather build your show around ad support from AT&T, Bank of America, and Best Buy, which is the way Glenn Beck used to be?
I thought so.
Glenn Beck has been utterly decimated from an advertising standpoint. It's practically the highest-rated show on cable news yet all of its big national advertisers are gone. All. Of. Them. It's gotten so bad, Glenn Beck is airing free ads from other Murdoch properties, such as the Wall Street Journal, just to fill up the inventory.
But boy, you sure wouldn't know any of that know from consuming the mainstream news media. Sure, there have been lots of mentions that a boycott exists. And especially after ColorofChange ally--and Glenn Beck target--Van Jones recently resigned his White House post, lots of news outlets noted the boycott. But how many news outlets have mentioned just how many advertisers have pulled their dollars from Glenn Beck? How many news outlets in recent days and weeks have detailed that more than three, then four, and now five dozen advertisers have jettisoned the program?
Pretty much zero.
At least I can't find any on Nexis/Lexis. The New York Times, for instance, hasn't touched the unfolding story since August 14, when the paper reported that Glenn Beck had lost "about a dozen" advertisers, a boycott tally the Times described back then as "unusually successful."
Well, since then the boycott tally has increased five times. Since then, advertising and media history have been made this summer, but the Times, whose newsroom normally obsesses over the intersection of politics and media, has remained dutifully mum on the still-unfolding story.
More than five dozen advertisers have walked away from Glenn Beck. But the press couldn't care less.
Wilson's hateful and unhinged outburst wasn't' really that bad, writes Parker, because members of Congress have always done rude things while presidents address Congress, like when Sen. John McCain was caught napping during one of Bush's speeches.
I'm not kidding. That's what Parker wrote.
Do false equivalencies come any more lame than that? Indeed they do, because Parker's just getting started. She also notes that Hillary Clinton once wore a nasty expression on her face when Bush spoke to Congress, which let's face it, is just like calling interrupting the President of the United States on national television and calling him a liar. (And, of course, lying about him being a liar.)
It gets even worse. Parker then goes back and simply reinvents history by claiming that Democrats were "booing and heckling Bush throughout his 2005 address."
Parker here is flat out lying here. Go watch the clip of Democrats allegedly "booing and heckling Bush" in 2005, which conservatives eagerly posting on the Internet yesterday. See for yourself what a joke it is to suggest the Democratic groans that arose when Bush was fear mongering about the state of Social Security, were the same as Wilson's clarion and unhinged "Your lie!" outburst.
And a personal challenge to Parker: Please substantiate your claim that the so-called "booing and heckling" of Bush in 2005 lasted throughout his 2005 address. Not even the factually-challenged right-wing blogosphere is making that preposterous claim.
UPDATED: Parker just plays massively dumb throughout the column [emphasis added]:
South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson seems to have set a precedent Wednesday night when he called the president a liar during a joint session of Congress. That's the official word from House deputy historian Fred Beuttler, who says that though cheering and jeering between parties are commonplace, a single individual seldom steals the floor.
Why the "seems"? Parker quotes a House historian who says nobody's done what Wilson did. But since her point is to pretend the "You lie!" was no big deal, Parker suggests it might have not been so novel.
First, it was Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accusing a Democratic member of congress of making a "fascist salute" to Barack Obama in an effort to "balance" his criticism of unruly House Republicans. Now, Politico offers an even more absurd example of "both sides do it."
In an article about the Republican Party being overrun by nutty claims like Sarah Palin's false "Death Panels" allegations, the Birther nonsense, and conservatives claiming Barack Obama was going to "indoctrinate" schoolchildren, Politico drops in this doozy of a "to be sure" paragraph:
Nor are Democrats strangers to having their crazy uncles take center stage. During the run-up to the Iraq war, for example, Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and David Bonior (D-Mich.) famously flew to Baghdad, where McDermott asserted that he believed the president would "mislead the American public" to justify the war. The trip made it a cakewalk for critics to describe the Democratic Party as chock-a-block with traitorous radicals.
Got that? Saying George W. Bush would "mislead the American public" in order to justify the Iraq war is the stuff of "crazy uncles" who are easily described as "traitorous radicals." It's on par with accusing President Obama of wanting to create "Death Panels" to kill off the old and the young, and of having been born in Kenya. Except that, you know ... George W. Bush did mislead the country to justify the war. Other than that, they're virtually the same thing.
Oh, and Jim McDermott was as significant a figure in the Democratic Party as Sarah Palin is in the GOP. Right.
The fact that Beltway media like the Politico still think that it is a baseless, fringe position to say George Bush lied his way into Iraq speaks volumes.
More than 60 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 September 10 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
... could a newspaper think it's reasonable to give a Republican strategist column-space to write that in order to be "centrist," the Democratic president should let the Republicans govern.
Check out this Politico column by self-described "partisan Republican" John Feehery:
How can he revive his presidency, promote his agenda and save his reputation? Act like the Republicans have already taken control of Congress.
Why should Obama wait for the inevitable election disaster that will come as a result of his sharp moves to the left? Why can't he start governing from the center now, by acting as if the Republicans already control Congress?
Here are some things he can insist on as he negotiates with Congress that will help him govern like a centrist:
Insist that Republicans provide half the votes for every piece of big legislation....the president can promise to veto every bill that doesn't have at least half of the Republicans voting for it.
Veto all tax increases. Republicans don't do tax increases, and that keeps them out of trouble. The president should just assume that if the Republicans were in charge, they wouldn't give you a tax increase to sign. Follow their lead.
Hilarious. A Republican strategist wants the Democratic President to let the Republicans -- who control nothing, who the public holds in contempt, whose ideas have been roundly rejected in consecutive elections -- call the shots. And Politico thinks that makes for a column worth printing.
Oh, by the way: How does this even make sense?:
Reid, whose own political fortunes are very dicey in his home state of Nevada because of his own perceived lurch to the left, has thrown his lot in with the liberals and similarly turned his back on the center.
Reid is in trouble because he is seen as having lurched to the left, so he's ... Lurching to the left? This isn't analysis, it's spin. And not even good spin. Self-discrediting spin.
It seems Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank isn't happy that I pointed out the absurdity of his claim that Democratic congressman Al Green made a "fascist salute" to Barack Obama during last night's speech. From Milbank's online discussion today:
Media Matters: Hey Dana, you did it! Media Matters isn't happy with your false moral equivalance. WaPo's Milbank: Dem. Rep. Green made "fascist salute" to Obama (MediaMatters, Sept. 10)
Dana Milbank: Excellent! After just 3 minutes as a hack for Barack I am back to being a right-wing stooge.
It's too bad about Media Matters. I'm sure Mr. Brock et al have some good points to make, but because they attack everybody for everything all the time, it winds up discrediting the good stuff they do and make it appear that they are just making noise.
It's too bad about the Washington Post. I'm sure* Mr. Milbank has some good points to make, but because he runs around calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" and Nico Pitney a "dick" and accusing members of congress of making "fascist salutes" and dressing up in a smoking jacket to act out his sophomoric little skits (oh, wait: those were cancelled) and generally behaving like a not-particularly-bright thirteen-year-old, it winds up discrediting the good stuff the Post does.
Anyway, I'm glad Milbank responded, because it gives me an opportunity to address something I left out of my post last night: Milbank's column was a complaint about the decline in civility in public discourse:
As President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, the nation's rapidly deteriorating discourse hit yet another low.
The national debate, already raw for years, had coarsened over the summer
And so on.
Yeah, that's right: Dana Milbank, whose dress-up skit show was cancelled after he called the Secretary of State a "bitch," was handing out lessons in civility. And now he's offering lessons in being taken seriously. I'll pass.
* No, not really.