Yesterday, Howard Kurtz was bewildered that the public believes lies about health care. Today, he (accidentally) shows why they do.
Here's Kurtz today, again expressing exasperation that the media's debunking of lies hasn't worked:
When something is clearly and factually inaccurate, journalists should say so. And the supposed euthanasia panels under the Obama plan was a rare instance in which news organizations did just that. And yet it didn't matter, with 45 percent of Americans saying in an NBC poll that they believe the plan includes government panels that would make end-of-life decisions.
What Kurtz fails to consider is that news organizations have done an sporadic and ineffectual job of declaring falsehoods to be false, as I pointed out yesterday. And they have done an even worse job of holding the liars accountable. If you're a health care critic, you can make up whatever damn fool thing you want, secure in the knowledge that even if a few news organizations debunk your lies, they'll still quote you the next time you say something.
Here's an example: Later in today's column, Kurtz quotes Fred Barnes' latest Wall Street Journal column. In that column, Barnes promotes the death panel nonsense that Howard Kurtz knows and says is false. Yet not only does Kurtz quote the Barnes column, he doesn't write a single word of criticism of Barnes. (He does quote Time's Joe Klein blasting Barnes, but doing it this way sets up a he-said/she-said in which some readers will dismiss Klein's views.)
This, Mr. Kurtz, is why people like Barnes feel free to spread lies: They know people like you will keep quoting them as though they are serious thinkers who deserve a place at the center of the public dialogue.
For weeks, the punditocracy -- Chris Matthews and Jonathan Alter come immediately to mind -- have been saying liberals are foolish for insisting on the inclusion of a public plan in health care reform. Liberals, they say, are letting the perfect* be the enemy of the good, and risk getting nothing by insisting on everything*.
Well, here's Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, via today's Wall Street Journal:
Sen. Charles Grassley signaled growing skepticism about the likelihood of Democrat-led health-care legislation passing this year, telling a town-hall meeting here Monday, "Now is the time to do this right or not do it."
In an interview, he vowed not to vote for an "imperfect bill" that includes a public option or gives the government too much control over end-of-life issues.
I wonder if we'll see the same amount of media hand-wringing over Grassley's refusal to vote for what he considers an "imperfect bill." Will he be denounced for being willing to do nothing at all rather than something he considers imperfect? Will he be portrayed as stubborn and unyielding and reckless?
* Never mind that the public option is, for many liberals, neither "perfect" nor "everything," but a huge concession to the Right -- it isn't single-payer.
This nugget from the WSJ, on the (misguided premise) that Don Imus might help juice FBN ratings in the mornings, was pretty amazing [emphasis added]:
Fox Business averaged 21,000 viewers between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. in June, according to Nielsen Co.
That's right, 21,000 viewers. Now, combine that number with this one:
Fox Business is in 49 million homes, including the New York and Washington markets.
Rupert Murdoch's Fox Business Network is in 49,000,000 homes, but only 21,000 tune in during the morning. I think that comes out to .05% of possible viewers watching FBN during morning drive, but I'm no good at math so the figure might actually be lower.
Suffice it to say that after more than a year on the air, FBN remains cable's best kept secret.
As I've noted before, during the Bush years, the vigilant National Review was on high alert for any administration critics who played the Nazi or Hitler or swastika card. For The National Review, that kind of rhetoric was just completely out of bounds and only highlighted how deranged Bush's liberal critics had become. (i.e. Nazi's? Who says that kind of stuff?)
But my how things have changed. These days, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh--two sources The National Review now looks to for moral guidance--regularly spew Nazi and Hitler nonsense, and formerly serious conservative writers know not to say a word. They know it's considered bad form to contradict anything said on Fox News or Limbaugh's hate program. So even though The National Review made it a point to call out anyone who engaged in Nazi and Hitler rhetoric while Bush was president, the magazine today meekly turns away while the conservative movement wallows in the stuff.
If by any chance, editors at National Review regain their moral compass, they might want to scold Fox News for Monday having on a health care mini-mob member who (surprise!) got famous for unfurling a fact-free rant in front of a Congressman. The key part of the rant? That Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a Nazi. (BTW, did you know Nazi's were "leftists?" And who says the mini-mobs can't educate the masses?)
Never mind. Fox News loves the guy and made sure to play the part of this rant where he smeared Pelosi as a Nazi. (She has a swastika on her sleeve!) I'm sure The National Review is deeply troubled....
On Monday, the Post reported that "about 20 companies" had pulled their ads from Beck's program in response his "racist" smear against President Obama.
Yet on Monday, that figure was already woefully off the mark, because as of Monday 33 companies had pulled their ads. Being off by more than one-third in terms of the number of advertising fleeing Beck's show is sort of a big deal since the entire premise of the ad boycott campaign is to get as many companies as possible to turn their back on Beck. The number is the news. Yet somehow the Post managed to completely botch that key number; to completely low-ball it.
Now, it turns out that number has jumped to 36 advertisers which have pulled their ads from Beck's show. As of right now, the Post was off by nearly 50 percent in terms of its boycott reporting.
Thirty-six companies have now reportedly said they will no longer run ads on Glenn Beck's Fox News show.
Media Matters for America has compiled a list of companies that did run ads on Glenn Beck this evening (August 24) in the order they appeared:
The New York Times featured an op-ed yesterday by Robert Wright of the New America Foundation proposing "A Grand Bargain Over Evolution," whereby two warring groups -- the "intensely religious" and the "militantly atheistic" -- might find a scrap of common ground concerning Darwin's theories and "learn to get along." The proposal is wrapped in scientific jargon and relies heavily on intellectual history and high-minded philosophizing. There's just one problem.
The "bargain" stinks.
Here's how Wright sees things -- the atheists "insist that any form of god-talk, any notion of higher purpose, is incompatible with a scientific worldview," whereas the religious refuse to believe that natural selection is capable of producing creatures as complex and morally attuned as Homo sapiens, which means God "had to step in and provide special ingredients at some point." Both these viewpoints are "wrong," according to Wright, and are in need of some tweaking. For the religious, Wright proposes that they accept that God "initiat[ed] natural selection with some confidence that it would lead to a morally rich and reflective species." For the atheists, Wright prescribes that they accept that "any god whose creative role ends with the beginning of natural selection is, strictly speaking, logically compatible with Darwinism," and that "natural selection's intrinsic creative power ... adds at least an iota of plausibility to this remotely creative god." Voila -- amity achieved.
But this doesn't seem like much of a "bargain." He's asking believers in God to continue believing in God, but to also believe in natural selection as one of God's works. But for the atheists, he's essentially asking that they toss out their beliefs. Being an atheist in predicated upon one principle idea -- that there is no "higher power" at work in the universe. To ask an atheist to acknowledge, in Wright's words, "at least an iota of plausibility to this remotely creative god" is to ask that atheist to stop being an atheist. He's asking one group to merely alter their belief structure, and another group to completely undermine the basic tenet of theirs. Some "bargain" ...
From an August 24 ColorofChange.org press release:
Facing increased pressure from ColorOfChange.org members, 16 new companies have pledged not to run additional ads on Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck Program. Thirty-six companies have now committed not to support Beck's show since ColorOfChange.org launched its campaign three weeks ago.
The defections come as ColorOfChange.org members mobilized last week against corporations who still refused to pull their ads from Glenn Beck by placing thousands of phone calls to company executives. By the end of the week, three of these companies - Clorox, Lowe's and Sprint - had pledged not to run additional ads; Red Lobster and Vonage have not yet responded.
The new companies distancing themselves from Beck include Airware Inc. (makers of Brez anti-snoring aids), Ancestry.com, AT&T, Blaine Labs Inc., Campbell Soup Company, Clorox, Ditech, The Elations Company, Experian (creator of FreeCreditReport.com), Farmers Insurance Group, Johnson & Johnson (makers of Tylenol), Lowe's, NutriSystem, Sprint, The UPS Store and Verizon Wireless. They join twenty other companies who previously pledged not to run additional ads on Glenn Beck. The moves come after the Fox News Channel host called President Obama a "racist" who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" during an appearance on Fox & Friends.
From Jim Towey's November 8, 2008, Wall Street Journal op-ed:
Mother Teresa was asked at the end of her life whether she was discouraged because after decades of caring for the dying and destitute in Calcutta little seemed to have changed. She replied, "No. God doesn't call me to be successful. God calls me to be faithful."
History will decide whether George W. Bush was a successful President. But he was faithful. He had a charge to keep and he kept it.