Media Matters for America recently released a report documenting the obsessive attention Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have devoted to ACORN -- due, of course, to their self-professed determination to expose taxpayer-funded waste, fraud, and abuse wherever it appears. As such, Media Matters compared the focus each host's television programs have given to the story with their coverage of well-documented political scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney, as well as massive corruption scandals engulfing Halliburton, Blackwater, and KBR -- corporations which have received thousands of times more money from the government than ACORN ever has.
The results were shocking: taken together, Beck and Hannity have been approximately 35 times more likely to reference ACORN than any of the military contractors, and 24 times more likely to reference ACORN than either Abramoff or Ney.
This is agenda-driven journalism at its worst -- and it's nothing new. An impressive study by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College has taken an even broader view of how ACORN has been portrayed in recent years, starting in 2006 and going through the 2008 presidential election. Rachel Maddow discussed it last night.
Among the study's conclusions (emphasis added):
The attacks on ACORN originated with business groups and political groups that opposed ACORN's organizing work around living wages, predatory lending, and registration of low-income and minority voters. These groups created frames to discredit ACORN that were utilized by conservative "opinion entrepreneurs" within the conservative "echo chamber" -- publications, TV and radio talk shows, blogs and websites, think tanks, and columnists -- to test, refine, and circulate narrative frames about ACORN. These conservative "opinion entrepreneurs" were successful in injecting their perspective on ACORN into the mainstream media.
What was the substance of the anti-ACORN campaign? If you had heard anything about ACORN before Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe burst on the scene, you had probably also heard that the group was guilty of systematic (and pro-Obama) voter fraud -- itself a fraudulent story line. From the Occidental study (emphasis added):
The mainstream news media failed to fact-check persistent allegations of "voter fraud" despite the existence of easily available countervailing evidence. The media also failed to distinguish allegations of voter registration problems from allegations of actual voting irregularities. They also failed to distinguish between allegations ofwrongdoing and actual wrongdoing.
More specifically, the Occidental study revealed that:
And perhaps most importantly:
It sounds familiar, doesn't it? The conservative media's coverage of the newest ACORN "scandal" has been defined by politically motivated journalistic malpractice, and once again, too many mainstream outlets have fallen in line, taking their cues from Fox instead of examining the story in a responsible way.
It's obvious that the right-wing media, and Fox in particular, will do anything it can to turn ACORN into a never-ending source of anti-progressive invective. But it remains the mainstream media's duty to serve as more than just a handmaiden for this conservative crusade. It may have failed before, but it owes it to the country not to fail again.
This A1 article is getting lots of attention, and fits in nicely with the Beltway's preferred Dems-are-in-big-trouble narrative:
Democrats Are Jarred by Drop In Fundraising
That's the headline. Should we count the problems with Paul Kane's article?
First, there's not one Democrat quoted in the Post piece who is "jarred" by the drop in fundraising, or anything like it. The Post simply makes that announcement itself. In fact, some Democrats quoted seem to suggest it was inevitable that a fall-off would occur given the historic amount of money the party raised during Obama's run. i.e. Don't fundraising tallies, even for committees that oversee Congressional races, often drop after presidential election year cycles, which now last two years long, including the primary season?
Yet Kane spends almost his entire article comparing fundraising tallies collected immediatialy after a presidential compaign, with tallies collected during one. Pretty obvious apples and oranges, no?
Then there's this graphic the Post used to show just how supposedly jarring the drop-off has been for Democrats.
Note there is no accompanying chart for GOP efforts so it's difficult for readers to get a sense of how the two parties compare. But also notice that through August of 2009, Democratic fundraising was up significantly as compared to the first eight months in 2005. (Despite that, the Post calls the Dems' 2009 efforts "poor.") So if you take out the most recent presidential cycle, Dems are raising more money than in 2005. Again, perhaps that's why the Post could find any Democrats who are "jarred."
And then there's this. The Post leans heavily on the idea that because furndraising in 2009 is down from 2007, that means big trouble for 2010's off-year, midterm showdown with the GOP:
Large-scale defeats in the midterms could be a crippling blow to the ambitious agenda mapped out by Obama's top advisers, particularly if they happen in the Senate, where Democrats caucus with a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority. The party will have to work furiously to defend at least six Senate seats and as many as 40 in the House, including many snatched from Republicans.
But back to that fundraising graph. Note again that Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2005, the lead-in year to the 2006 off-yeare midterm contests. And what happened in the 2006 midterms? Democrats scored huge wins over the GOP. So see the problem with the Post's analysis? The paper claims Dems are down in fundraising this years which could mean a problems for the off-year midterm contests. When in fact, Dems are ahead of their last off-year mid-term tallies, when Dems won big.
UPDATED: Another glaring problem with Kane's reporting:
Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.
That's the lede and it contains a sweeping assertion that there's "boycott" among the bigbest Dem donors. Wow, that seems like a big deal. How exactly does Kane back up that controversial assertion? Like this:
Other Democrats and their aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party strategy, said that rhetoric toward big business has grown so antagonistic that it has become increasingly difficult to raise money on Wall Street, particularly after the controversy about bonuses and executive compensation.
Good grief. Does that very vague, very general reporting from Kane, based on off-the-record comments, in any way support his earlier, definitive claim that there's a donor boycott--a Democratic backlash--because of anti-big business rhetoric? Not even close. In the lede, Kane reports there's a "boycott" due to the rhetoric. Later in the piece Kane reports it's "difficult" to raise money from Wall Street due to the rhetoric. Which is it?
And where exactly is this populist, Democratic crusade against big business coming from? The Obama White House and Congressional leaders have been bashing corporate America this year? I must have missed it. And Kane includes no quotes to highlight the supposed push.
Kane does interview one wealthy private investor and longtime Democratic supporter. But the donor makes no mention of anti-big business rhetoric as the reason some donors may have stopped writing checks.
It's been several days since we noted Barone plainly manufactured a claim in his Examiner column. But still no correction or retraction. Maybe the Examiner just doesn't bother with exercises like that.
The problem with Barone's column came when, when trying to prop up the right-wing meme that it was liberals who unleashed violence this summer at the health care mini-mob forums, he claimed "a union thug beat up a 65-year-old black conservative in Missouri." Barone was referring to Kenneth Gladney, and whether he was "beaten" remains open to debate. (The police still have not pressed any charges in the case even though they know who the supposed assailants are.)
But suddenly Gladney's 65 years old? Oh brother. I understand why Barone wanted to emphasize that point; it makes the "union thug" seem even more heartless and scary. But in truth, Gladney is 38 years old. Barone was only off by 27 years. Sort of an important fact, no?
Question: Will the Washington Examiner columnist correct his obvious error, or does writing for the conservative Examiner mean you don't have to be bothered with such trivialities?
UPDATED: Since Barone's email address is attached to the bottom of his column, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if readers inquired about a possible correction.
And honestly, who gets angry at The Onion? Answer: Humorless right-wing bloggers, that's who. Worse, humorless, right-wing bloggers who write for Andrew Breitbart and don't read and/or do research very well. (Surprise!)
Here's the trenchant media criticism posted at Breitbart's Big Hollywood site:
Cowardly 'Onion' Ignores Obama, Ridicules Reagan's Alzheimers
And yes, blogger Christian Toto is actually angry that a satirical publication ridiculed somebody. (Noted.) But worse, The Onion totally lays off Obama [emphasis added]:
Week after week The Onion bends over backward not to satirize The One. That's keeping in line with most of today's cowardly comics, from David Letterman to Bill Maher.
Yeah, except that when you punch in "Obama" into The Onion's search engine it spits out 198 times that Obama has been featured in the mag. A few sample headlines:
-"Obama Revises Campaign Promise Of 'Change' To 'Relatively Minor Readjustments In Certain Favorable Policy Areas'"
-"Obama Suddenly Panicked After Gazing Too Far Into Future""
-"Obama Peddling Stimulus Package Door-To-Door"
-"White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase"
-"'Time' Publishes Definitive Obama Puff Piece"
-"Nation Descends Into Chaos As Throat Infection Throws Off Obama's Cadence"
-"Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose"
We'll wait because this one's a whopper.
The Tribune's Mark Silva pretends the right-wing's jihad against a group of small school children who sang an Obama-inspired song is news. It's not, of course, which might be why the Tribune's Swamp blog did its best to improve the facts. I suggest the Tribune correct the false report immediately.
The blatant misinformation is found right in the headline [emphasis added]:
It was the posting of the video on YouTube that brought a school apology.
Categorically false. The school where the children sang did not issue an apology in response to yesterday's hateful online crusade. Why should it?
Here is the statement issued by the school, in its entirety. Good luck finding the "apology." Or maybe Tribune editors have special, Michelle Malkin-issued decoder glasses and can locate the mysterious apology:
Dear Burlington Township Families:
Today we became aware of a video that was placed on the internet which has been reported in the media. The video is of a class of students singing a song about President Obama. The activity took place during Black History Month in 2009, which is recognized each February to honor the contributions of African Americans to our country. Our curriculum studies, honors and recognizes those who serve our country. The recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized.
If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me or Dr. King, Principal of B. Bernice Young School, directly.
Dr. Christopher M. Manno,
UPDATED: Silva and the Tribune might also want to think about at least blurring the images of the second graders who appear on the Swamp blog, since this whole 'news' charade as been one massive invasion of their privacy.
Great catch by Raw Story.
Foxnews.com posted an item about the right-wing crusade yesterday to vilify young school children in N.J. who sang the praise of the president Obama during a Black History Month event. In that original report, the Fox update noted [emphasis added]:
The tension at B. Bernice Young Elementary School escalated to such a degree Thursday that the school was placed temporarily on lockdown after its principal received death threats over a YouTube video that showed nearly 20 children being taught songs lauding the president, though back-to-school night events continuing as planned Thursday night at the school.
Soon after though, the Fox news report had been scrubbed of any mention of looming violence; it had been scrubbed of any notion that right-wing crazies apparently called the school and were threatening to kill the principal.
As Media Matters noted, the Mount Vernon City Council is none too happy about Mayor Bud Norris' decision to hand over the key to the city in a $25 per head sold-out event on Saturday. In a contentious city hall meeting last night, the city council unanimously approved a resolution stating: "Mount Vernon City Council is in no way sponsoring the Mayor's event on September 26, 2009 and is not connected to the Glenn Beck event in any manner."
That's some welcoming for the Mount Vernon native.
Beck will also be greeted by a throng of protesters. According to local media reports, a 275-page-long petition with almost 16,000 signatures was to be delivered to the city council meeting last night.
The petition reads:
Dear Mount Vernon City Council,
We do not believe the city of Mount Vernon should honor Glenn Beck's fear mongering, racebaiting, inflammatory and dishonest approach to politics. Our country is better than this.
Please take action to overrule Mayor Norris's decision to give Glenn Beck the key to the city. It disgraces Mount Vernon, Washington State, and our country to honor a national poster child for intolerance, racism, and radical right-wing fringe politics.
Early reports indicated that no members of the press except for one local reporter would be allowed to cover the event. It turns out there was some confusion, according to GoSkagit.com, the website of the Skagit Valley Herald in Mount Vernon:
Robert Shelton, a long-time friend of Beck who was handling press credentials, said that he misunderstood information provided to him from a Beck representative to mean that media would be barred from the event.
"The confusion was (Beck's representatives) were saying we are not issuing any passes, and we took that to mean we don't want any passes issued," Shelton said.
"What they were saying is they did not have the credentials to issue because it is not them (organizing the event)," Shelton said.
However, GoSkagit.com added: "Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris has since announced that five members of the media will be admitted to the Glenn Beck event."
That sounds like rationing. Or the media practices of the Politburo.
We can only expect the rest of the media will take up with the protesters outside.
Meanwhile, mayor Dan Pike of nearby Bellingham -- where Glenn Beck attended high school -- has offered Jon Stewart the key to the city and an online petition urging Stewart to accept the key to the city offered by Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike has 650 signatures as of this afternoon. We can only imagine his reception will be just slightly more comical.
Because it's hopeless for you.
The only, only reason this twisted tale should be touched by the mainstream press is to use it as an example to highlight just how radical and unhinged Obama's critics have become. Otherwise, this idiotic crusade is 100% without news value.
The press must resist giving into it's growing, lazy tradition of pretending every time the right-wing raises a ruckus about some trivial pursuit that that means it's news. It's not. Who cares what's "generating anger from conservatives today"? That's not news.
And BTW, that's certainly not the standard the press used when Bush was president and his ideological opponents attacked him (in a far more sane manner.) In fact, the press din't give a damn what Bush's liberal critics thought from day to day. (i.e. Angry liberals = annoying.) So the press ought to drop the phony double standard that it's adopted under Obama. (i.e. Angry conservatives = important.)
The story about little kids innocently singing a song in praise of the president is, without question, void of news value. So journalists, a tip: Show some class and show some restraint. Don't take the bait this time, because legitimizing this sorry story's going to leave a stench on you, too.
The city council for Mount Vernon, Washington was not nearly as wild about the idea of "Glenn Beck Day" as the mayor:
On Wednesday night, the City Council of this town of 32,000 distanced itself from Mayor Bud Norris, who plans to give the keys to the city to talk-show personality Glenn Beck on Saturday.
The seven-member council unanimously passed a resolution proposed by member Dale Ragan that stated, "Mount Vernon City Council is in no way sponsoring the Mayor's event on September 26, 2009 and is not connected to the Glenn Beck event in any manner."
The resolution came after two dozen people who had signed up for the public-comment part of the session spoke in often emotional language to oppose honoring the controversial talk-show host.
Beck, who just made the cover of Time magazine, was in the news recently for labeling President Obama a "racist," a statement that brought a boycott of dozens of advertisers from his Fox TV show. He is recognized as a polarizing figure.
Let's compare and contrast two articles from the Journal's A section today. One is about Obama's speech to the U.N. on Wednesday, and one was about Sarah Palin's speech to a Hong Kong audience on Wednesday.
Now, if you were a news editor, which story would warrant more time and attention? Would it be A) the one where the new President of the United States address for his first time the joint session of the United Nations and lays his vision for foreign relations. Or, would it be B) the one where last year's failed vice presidential candidate travels overseas to give a speech to wealthy investors?
If you work for the WSJ, you answered B, of course.
-Number of paragraphs in the Journal's Obama speech news article: 6
-Numbers of paragraphs* in the Journal's Palin speech news article: 10
Yep, inside the Journal newsroom, Palin's speech was nearly twice as important--twice as newsworthy--as Obama's address to the U.N.
*Corrected to "paragraphs." Originally read "words."